Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of LENT. Lent is the liturgical season in which we prepare ourselves for Holy Week.
The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and reflection have long been employed by followers in order to more fully experience Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. There he suffered betrayal by a friend, rejection by his people, brutality from the soldiers, the desertion of his disciples, the shame of the cross, and the finality of death. Lent offers us forty days and six Sundays leading up to this last week of Jesus life in which we can become more open, receptive and attuned to the graces bestowed upon us in the faithfulness and love that led Jesus to Jerusalem and through the events that left him buried in a borrowed tomb on the outskirts of the city. Not the end of the story, to be sure, but the season of Lent will not let us skip over to the surprising glory of Easter without first being brought to the foot of the cross.
Prayer opens us up to the God who wishes to both speak and commune with us. Fasting frees us to walk Jesus’ way, less burdened, more open to the Spirit. Almsgiving expands our gaze that we might see neighbors with the eyes of love. Reflection opens minds to the way, truth and life of Jesus.
The prayers offered here may help guide you in these practices. In the Celtic Tradition, Sundays during Lent are considered feast, or festival days. On Sundays one’s lenten fast is suspended as a celebration of the resurrection becomes the focal point. In keeping with this tradition the prayers offered here for Sundays will be prayers of praise and joy, while prayers on the other days will center around confession.
May these prayers help guide your prayers through this deep and meaningful season which prepares us for the last week of Jesus’ life and subsequent death and our hope through the dark for Easter.
Ash Wednesday-March 5
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your heart and not your clothing.” Return to the Lord, your God, for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…”
Challenge: Pray Psalm 51
Prayer (adapted from Book of Common Worship):
Almighty God, you despise nothing you have made
and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.
Create in me a new and humble heart,
that truly repenting of my sin,
and acknowledging my brokenness,
I may take hold of your pardon and forgiveness,
and be taken hold of by your endless mercy and love.
All this I pray through your Son, Jesus Christ,
my Redeemer and Friend,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and forever. Amen.
Day 2 of Lent-Thursday-March 6
by Ann Lewin
Lent is a time to learn to travel
Light, to clear the clutter
From our crowded lives, and
Find a space, a desert.
Deserts are bleak; no creature
Comforts, only a vast expanse of
Stillness, sharpening awareness of
Ourselves and God.
Uncomfortable places, deserts.
Most of the time we’re tempted to
Avoid them, finding good reason to
Live lives of ease; cushioned by
Noise from self-discovery,
Clutching at world’s success
To stave off fear.
But if we dare to trust the silence
To strip away our false security,
God can begin to grow his wholeness in us,
Fill up our emptiness, destroy our fears.
Give us new vision, courage for the journey,
And make our desert blossom like a rose.
(A time of silence)
Lenten Prayer (from Worship in an Indian Context)
help me to follow you into the desert,
with you to fast, denying false luxury,
refusing the tempting ways of self-indulgence,
the way of success at all costs,
the way of coercive persuasion.
Servant Christ, help me to follow you. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
With wayward steps forgiven, and lesser gods exposed,
Our settled comfort challenged, disturbing calm repose,
We rise from easy lies, leave pretense in the past
Daring to step in faith, and follow you at last.
Truth shines like desert noonday sun
Burning away excuses, scorching infatuation.
Until finally we see our first love and true light
Now grant grace to follow, and for service, thy might.
Day 3 of Lent-Friday-March 7
Moment for Reflection (A prayer by Janet Morley)
“Christ our companion, you came not to humiliate the sinner but to disturb the righteous. Welcome us when we are put to shame, but challenge our smugness, that we may truly turn from what is evil, and be freed even from our virtues, in your name. Amen.”
Challenge: Read Flannery O’Conner’s short story entitled “Revelation.”
O Lord, our God, we bow before you this day humbled by our hypocrisy. We go to church on Sundays, claiming to be your people, yet our weekday actions betray us. Even our thoughts and meditations prove less than admirable in your sight. Please forgive us. We are certainly not all we appear to be. We put on our best face and mask the contradictions within.
We plead your forgiveness for our dishonesty and lack of integrity. We pray that you would work in us to bring our many different selves into one. Unite us, individually and corporately, around your Son, the One who can give our lives true integrity. In His name we make our prayer. Amen.
Day 4 of Lent-Saturday-March 8
Moment for Reflection- “Since 2005, we have been living in Enderly Park because we believe that living here is the best way for us to be converted into the way of Jesus.” (Greg and Helms Jarrell)
Meditation- In what ways are you being converted “into the way of Jesus”?
Forgive us for hiding amidst the shadows when you call. Forgive our secret thoughts, our shady desires, our hidden faults – both the ones we are unaware of and the ones we know quite well but cover up and hide lest we be exposed. Forgive our shameful ways of celebrating your light yet living in darkness. Our sin clings to us because we refuse to see it, admit it, and let you deal with it. Free us for the truth, even when truth may not flatter us.
By the light of your love shine into the dark crevices of our lives. Dispel the shady intentions, the dark desires and the evil within. Let us see the light of your salvation which you have brought in Christ Jesus, our Lord. In his name we pray. Amen.
Benediction-May the God of peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being -spirit, soul, and body -free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1st Sunday of Lent-March 9
(adapted from Basil the Great)
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.
“O come, let us worship and fall down; let us weep before him.”
The Word who invited us to repentance calls aloud,
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
There is, then, a way of salvation.
The Holy One is given for the unjust, the innocent for the guilty,
the righteous one for the unrighteous, the incorruptible for the
corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.
Through Christ, the one mediator between God and humankind, we are all saved.
Through Christ, let us now worship the living, gracious and generous God.
Prayer (adapted from The Call to Worship)-We rejoice, O God, that you call us to this place to sing your praise and offer our lives. For not only do you search us and know us, but you have sought us and found us. We rejoice in your salvation. Like a shepherd searching for a lost lamb, like a a poor woman in search of her lost coin, you still seek the lost, left out, marginalized, shunned and forgotten. Through worship this day give us eyes to see the lonely and least, strength to reach out, and hands to find them wherever they may be. May we all celebrate with joy our being found in You. To you, O God, ruler of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Day 5 of Lent-Monday-March 10
Moment for Reflection – “You have made us different so that our difference might save the world. But too often our difference tempts us to ridicule because the world, after all, is ridiculous. Never let us forget that we too are the world, and so also ridiculous. Shape the judgments of our neighbors and our own foolish judgments by your love, so that we might be together saved……” (from Prayers Plainly Spoken by Stanley Hauerwas)
Dear Lord, we thank you for your compassion and grace. You deal with us not according to our sin but with your boundless mercy. If you kept account of sin, not one of us could stand. But with you is forgiveness. Forgive us our denial of your mercy. We do hold account of sins against us. We remember every one, and magnify each. We wear them like distorted, darkened glasses through which we judge others by what we hold against them. We are slow to forgive and quick to judge, except when it is in our own favor. In the pure, clear light of your forgiveness, help us to see. By your Spirit help us to trust your generous mercy for ourselves and all. Free us to forgive one another and even ourselves. Amen.
Day 6 of Lent-Tuesday-March 11
Moment for Reflection – “We handicap ourselves with human plans, but improve ourselves by being receptive to God.” (Ron Hansen)
Dear Lord, we are a people with plans. We have big plans for our lives, little plans for our next project, and often unspoken plans for those around us. We come to you with our plans asking that you bless them, make them fruitful, and help us fulfill them. Father forgive our presumption. We’ve had perhaps a fleeting thought to ask about your desires, but we’ve no time to listen. For our plans and our projects and all the lists of necessities which they generate take priority and consume us. “Hear us,” we say, “give us success.”
On the cross, which itself was a horrible product of our plans, your son asked that you “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Neither do we. Forgive us please and grant us the patience to hear all about your plans. Allow us to be as receptive of your kingdom project as your son was of the children who were brought for him to touch. Help us to put first things, first. And you are first. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Day 7 of Lent-Wednesday-March 12
Moment for Reflection-We believe in “More.”
We believe in “More.”
We believe that More is better,
that enough is never enough, that there is always More.
And in “More Than,”
which is the real reason for having More.
Conceived by the “Holy Most,” born of green-eyed Envy, suffering under the conniving covetousness of others, grasping, greedy and hoarding;
but finally, the one who dies with the most stuff wins.
Now, getting “More Than” has risen and ascended to rule our lives and is the right hand of power driving us to get “More.” Having “More Than” anyone will be the judge of the quick and the dead.
We believe in the “Holy Most,” the Holy Having of All, the consuming of ever More, the forsaking of nothing, our entitlement to the world’s resources, and that there is always “More.”
All this we believe in the name of “More,” ”More Than,” and “Holy Most.” Amen.
Righteous God, no matter how good we think we’ve been, we are all guilty of partaking in the sin and evil of our times. We despoil your creation with our insatiable lust for more of everything. Our lifestyles depend on the voracious consumption of natural resources wholly out of proportion to the rest of the world. Our waste and garbage pollute the lands and water of those who cannot resist us. Our economic system enslaves our own citizens to longer and less rewarding work. Our business practices enslave foreigners in sweat shops, fields and factory. Arms sales boost the yield of our stock portfolios, but bring fear, domination and death to the victims of those who buy them. But is all that our responsibility? Are we our brother’s keeper?
From bedroom to boardroom and back again we find ourselves guilty, O Lord. We pray your forgiveness and more. We pray for your help in the midst of our complicity in all the evil and sin that both resides in us and surrounds us. Free us from our willful selfishness, and from the principalities and powers that seem to rule us. By your death and victory, save us. We pray in your holy name. Amen.
Day 8 of Lent-Thursday-March 13
Moment for Reflection-“Fight Apathy. Or Don’t.” (Graffito)
“But strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
We’ve been at it again, Lord; racing after trinkets, battling over trivia. We expend so much energy on that which doesn’t matter. Worse, we grow ever more confused about what really does. Some days a desperate urgency overtakes us and we rush headlong into our to-do lists, projects and plans. On other days we toss our hands up in despair at the futility of it all. Some of us work our fingers to the bone in worry and sweat; for what? Others, seeing overwhelming odds, sigh in quiet resignation; whatever.
Forgive both the vanity of our arrogance and the abdication of our responsibility. Forgive our ill aimed, headstrong drivenness and our timid reluctance. Turn us to yourself. For with you there is purpose and direction to guide our efforts; hope and strength to overcome our despair. You have made us for Yourself. Free us from the trinkets and trivia that so encumber our lives. Let us live each day wholly for You. Amen.
Day 9 of Lent-Friday-March 14
Moment for Reflection
We forget that all life comes from you and that to you all life returns.
We are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
All of us go down to the dust.
You only are immortal, the creator and maker of all.
With our cars, computers and cell phones we believe that we are in control. The sweet seduction of control leaves us only lusting for more. We argue over the remote, the thermostat, the calendar, and the evening menu. We even want a God we can control. One who is all powerful, but only to do as we say; all knowing, but only to help us out; all loving, but only to support and caress us and those we recommend. And if You won’t be that, well, it’s our way or the highway.
We take ourselves so seriously. Forgive us. Forgive the idols we have made in our own image. Forgive us for falling into the illusion of control. As scary as it is, give us faith. Teach us to be humbly realistic about ourselves, after all, we are dust. Let us delight in You and stand in humble awe of your divine character. May we acknowledge our indebtedness to and dependence on You. Please help us to know that if it is our way or the highway, You won’t be the one hitting the road. In your name we humbly pray. Amen.
Day 10 of Lent-Saturday-March 15
Moment for Reflection-“The heart of the matter is that we are to trust God, not ourselves. Our strength and might are perfectly irrelevant in God’s plan. We can do nothing on our own and God intends for us to learn that.” (John Alexander)
God of our life, you have called us to bear witness to the cross and resurrection of Jesus, in whose love we have found abundant life. We confess that our witness bears little resemblance to him who gave all that we might live. Most often our witness testifies to our actions, powers, skills and accomplishments. Your saving goodness is but a springboard from which we leap in order to dive back into life lived by our efforts and on our terms. We have failed to live by the power of your love and so we fail to show your love to this love starved world.
Forgive us for denying your divine love and power in which we live, move and have our being. Quicken us by your Holy Spirit. In all that we say and do enable us to bear faithful witness to the love, mercy and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
2nd Sunday of Lent-Sunday-March 16
Deep echoes of the soul,
Voices of silence
It is the call of God,
The pull and tug of Lent:
A season for reflection and yearning,
A time of confession then turning,
Then to follow the One,
Whose face was set like flint
Toward Jerusalem to cross and death,
From dark tomb to new life then ascent.
Yes, HEAR the call of God,
And FEEL the pull of Lent.
Come and let us worship
This One from heav’n sent.
All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life, and defeat into victory. The Seed buried in the tomb of time has sprouted and flourished, we know not how; just that its branches go far and wide inviting all to make their homes in its shade. Give us faith to see your hidden design, revealed to all through trust in Jesus who died and was raised, the new creation in whom we are made new. Amen.
Day 11 of Lent-Monday-March 17
“Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:23-24)
O Lord, we are a people deeply concerned with justice and righteousness, yes, deeply concerned that they be done unto us, but far less concerned that others be treated in similar fashion. Forgive us for holding such a selfish double standard.
We claim to know you, yet do we heed your words? We claim to be your people, but do we follow your way? Forgive our hastily spoken declarations of loyalty which are not backed up with loyal living.
We bring our concerns to you, but are we concerned to hear and do your will? We worship you but do not walk in your ways. We want you in our lives, but mostly to help us attain our chosen ends. Forgive our self-obsession and the foolish preoccupations which keep you out on the periphery of our lives.
Open our ears that we might hear your call. Open our eyes that we might see your way. Open our hearts that we might trust your presence there. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with thy children thus to share.”
Day 12 of Lent-Tuesday-March 18
“Forgiveness surrounds us, beats upon us all our lives;
we confess only to wake ourselves up to what we already have.” (Robert Farrar Capon)
Gracious God, before we awoke you were with us, before we were, you had us in mind. You come to us before the thought occurs to us that we might turn to you. You come not to condemn, but to forgive so that we might become truly human, as was Jesus, your Son.
Through your gracious forgiveness allow us to confront the truth of our misdeeds and rebellion. Our sin is real, offensive to you, damaging to others and destroying us from the inside out.
Now Lord – calm hearts, dissolve worry, let anxiety cease; may we each hear the prayer you speak to us. And hear, O Lord, the prayers we make to you…
(Silence. Let God guide the thoughts and prayers.)
We place ourselves at your mercy. Replace our shame with a godly sorrow, rescue us from the pit of despair, root out denial and self-pity, and may we rejoice in your presence and forgiveness. Thank you for your gracious love and your open invitation to live forgiven and new lives. Amen.
Day 13 of Lent-Wednesday-March 19
“It is preoccupation with possession more than anything else that prevents people from living freely and nobly.”
“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…”
Lord God, you are creator, sustainer, savior and redeemer. We know that, but we don’t trust it. We trust what we can do for ourselves. We trust our abilities to provide for ourselves. We trust our portfolios. We trust our bank accounts. We trust stuff. We trust it for security, we trust it for happiness, which it brings, for a while. Then we need more stuff to make us happy again. And we get it, far more than we need, while others don’t have any at all.
Now the stuff owns us. We have become slaves of stuff, servants of money, possessed by our possessions. We offer sacrifice at mall temples, and visit the sacred sites of self-storage units. Security systems keep the unholy out, but lock us in. God, how did we get into this mess. Forgive us and free us from these gods that have us. Deliver us from our greed. Teach us that life, true life, has little to do with the abundance of possessions. The real treasure is You. Amen.
“No one can be the slave of two masters: she will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and money.” (Jesus of Nazareth)
“…today you must make up your minds whom you do mean to serve… as for my family and me, we shall serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NJB)
Day 14 of Lent-Thursday-March 20
“Obedience of the heart involves not just a new law, but a new heart itself, a veritable heart transplant performed by the Spirit of God. Only such a spiritual miracle will produce the obedience called for.”
(Christopher J. H. Wright)
Prayer (Psalm 51)
Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love;
According to your great compassion blot our our transgressions.
Wash away all our iniquity and cleanse us from sin.
Create in us a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within us.
Do not cast us from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation,
And grant a willing spirit to sustain us. Amen.
“….wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be too.” (Jesus of Nazareth)
So, where is your heart these days?
“Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I shall be their God and they will be my people… They will all know me, from the least to the greatest,” the Lord declares, “since I shall forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
Day 15 of Lent-Friday-March 21
“It is given to men to lift up the fallen and to free the imprisoned. Not merely to wait, not merely to look on! Man is able to work for the redemption of the world. The work is not yours to finish, Rabbi Tarfon said, but neither are you free to take no part in it.” (Annie Dillard in For the Time Being)
Lord and Redeemer, you are diligently working through word and deed to reclaim every corner of this world for yourself. Your activity knows no bounds for your love is beyond measure. We, however, have measured and bounded our love far too narrowly . Our work is done for self-interest and out of self-love. It is but a twisted, mangled image of your self-giving labor. When called to work with you for the world’s redemption, we say, “Wait till I can get my life in order, then maybe I’ll be in a position to help a bit.” But we never reach this impossible goal. Like Martha we are ‘worried and distracted by many things,’ thus unable to pursue the one most needful. Furiously we run in place, oblivious that the holy race for the redemption of the world has already begun. Forgive us, Lord.
Every journey begins with a single step. It might be a step off the treadmill of self-indulgence, or a step toward another in need. What one step might you take on this journey of redemption?
May God’s forgiveness in Christ set us free to take a step. For we never know when God might take what is a small step for us and turn it into a giant leap for humankind. But that is God’s prerogative; ours is to step out in following faith. One step at a time.
Day 16 of Lent-Saturday-March 22
“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”
(John Calvin: The True Christian Life)
Eternal and Almighty God, as we enter your holy presence, we acknowledge
that our lips are unclean,
our hands are unclean,
our hearts are unclean.
Our sins are too dark for us to face, and too heavy for us to bear. We pause in silence praying that you would enlighten our souls and lighten our load through the forgiveness Christ brings.
(take time for silent reflection)
In your tender compassion, show us mercy. Purify us with the coals from your altar as you did for Isaiah so long ago.
Fill our mouths with your word,
our hands with your work,
our hearts with your love,
according to your perfect will.
Sanctify us by your grace, that we may be holy, even as you are holy and eternally One, with all power and majesty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sisters and brothers, hear the good news! In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
…..so, work out your salvation with reverence and care, for it is God who is at work in you,
who gives you the intention and powers to act. (Philippians 3:13)
3rd Sunday of Lent-Sunday-March 23
O God, You are Light to the minds that know you,
You are the Life of the souls that love you,
You are the Vision of the thoughts that seek you:
Help us so to know you, that we may truly love you,
so to love you that we may fully serve you
whose service is perfect freedom.
Grant light to our minds, give life to our souls, and vision for our seeking,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us into worship and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call. As we worship, open us to your kingdom anew. While we serve, let your kingdom find concrete expression through what we do. You are our light and our salvation. Grant us living faith, child-like humility, a spirit of generous forgiveness, and a reluctance to be judgmental that we might see the light shining in the darkness and follow the path it illuminates. In the name of Jesus, who proclaimed and enacted the kingdom, we pray. Amen.
Day 17 of Lent-Monday-March 24
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32
Dear Lord of all, we come before you as those who have been lulled to sleep by the sweet music of our own success. We bask in the comfort and ease of the good life, awakened only by the advertiser’s jingles which stimulate us to add yet a few more feathers to our already overstuffed beds. On the outside we are looking good, but inside our souls shrink with each passing day. We have become spiritual zombies who respond to only the tyranny of the urgent.
(keep silent and pray….)
Lord, please forgive our single-minded fascination with the immediate. Forgive our dull inattentiveness to your everlasting word and life giving spirit. Awaken us, enliven us and fill us with a new passion for your kingdom. Keep us ever attentive to your Son Jesus, the bringer of your kingdom, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. In his name we pray. Amen.
May you be granted a clearer vision of God’s truth,
a greater faith in God’s power,
a more confident assurance of God’s love.
Day 18 of Lent-Tuesday-March 25
“All the things that really matter are not in your control…
Discern substance from accident. Don’t confuse your meals with your life, and your clothes with your body.
Don’t lose your head over what perishes. Nearly everything does perish… Don’t worry.
Don’t mistake what you possess for what you are….”
O Lord, our God, you have provided graciously and generously for our needs. Your bread has been sufficient to sustain us, your constant faithfulness secures us, your steadfast love empowers us.
(a moment for gratitude)
Yet we are not satisfied. We want more, or something other than your provision. Instead of seeking you we turn to other gods that we might feed our cravings, establish our own security, and become powerful. But these gods demand more and more of us for less and less return. Forgive our folly. Forgive our wayward hearts and the ease with which we slip into serving our own ends, with whatever means are convenient.
(a moment for confession)
Open our eyes that we might seek you again. You do more than sustain us, you provide for us lavishly and abundantly. You not only secure our lives with your faithfulness but you free us with your grace and truth. Your love empowers our living with meaning and hope. May we live not by the bread of anxious toil, but by the Word who came and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Amen.
“May you know what you ought to know, love what you ought to love, praise what delights God most, value what is precious in God’s sight, and hate what is offensive to God.”
(Thomas A’ Kempis)
Day 19 of Lent-Wednesday-March 26
“If our lives are actively committed to the praise of his glory, then they will offer others the visual manifestation
of God’s grace at work through and in us.”
Prayer (adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship)
Great God of grace and deliverance, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by that we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
“We may trust God with our past as heartily as with our future.”
“We are not preaching a state, but a walk. The highway of holiness is not a place, but a way… We can only walk in this path by looking continually unto Jesus, moment by moment… Should our sins arise we must not hide them and seek to salve it over with excuses, or push it out of the memory by the laps of time. Instead, do as the children of Israel did: rise up ‘early in the morning,’ and ‘run’ to the place where the evil thing is hidden, and take it out of its hiding place, and lay it ‘out before the Lord.’ We must confess our sin.”
(Hannah Whitall Smith)
Day 20 of Lent-Thursday-March 27
“With regard to our failures, we, like the Pharisees, use the law as a way to avoid the higher demands of God. Our legitimizing a lesser standard allows us to feel righteous relative to our culture. In this matter as in others, we wish to be saved by our good works rather than admit that we have fallen short and must be saved by grace.”
Almighty God and Savior, your goodness is poured out night and day over all creation. You are creator, sustainer and the redeemer of all. Your love for us both larger and deeper than we can ask or imagine. Why then do we trust you so little? When things go well, we pat ourselves on the back. In times of distress we express no confidence in your goodness but complain about the injustice of it all. In struggle and uncertainty we retreat to self reliance, breaking faith with you and with those near to us.
(take time for silent confession)
In mercy, forgive our faithlessness. Renew in us the spirit of devotion through commitment enacted by faith. By your grace may we steadfastly trust your abiding love, living in faith and hope through plenty and want, in joy and sorrow, for the sake of the one who loves us to the end, Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
“The Christian life is not the vain struggle to live right, but the resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our life. For Thine is the kingdom, power and glory. Amen.”
(Adapted from Andrew Murray: With Christ in the School of Prayer)
Day 21 of Lent-Friday-March 28
“Generosity is not merely a trait which pleases God.
It is a practice which releases us from bondage to the ego, and also to things.”
(Albert E. Day)
Prayer (adapted from a prayer by John Killinger)
Lord, deliver me from the small loyalties of habit or tradition that would keep me from the larger loyalties of the spirit. Forgive the stinginess of my gratitude and the smallness of my generosity. Forgive the reluctance in my giving, for it betrays my deep rooted self-centeredness. Allow the depth of your mercy and the height of your love to sweep me into a renewed, alive and abiding relationship with your self-giving Son. Let me now so incline myself to you that your presence in my life determines both what I think and what I do. Through Jesus, who understood the deeper meaning of freedom. Amen.
“God gives to us with a lavish hand, never withholding from us great grace and abundant mercy.
May we live and serve God with also with generous hearts.”
(Adapted from Bob Benson)
Today, seek ways to fertilize the seed of generosity God that has planted in your soul.
“Faith is the fruit of a seed planted in the depth of a lifetime.”
(Abraham Joshua Heschel)
Day 22 of Lent-Saturday-March 29
“Our feeding on Jesus, in the eucharist of course, but in so many other ways too, is our prayer for God’s own life, made flesh in Jesus, to clothe itself afresh with us, to get (as we say) into our bones and our bloodstreams, our thinking, our decisions, our leadership.”
Dear Lord, your steadfast love and faithfulness is seen through out the heavens and declared upon the pages of scripture. But we confess that as much as we like the idea of a heavenly love, when that love comes down and gets personal we get uncomfortable. A backdrop of divine love is fine, even nice; but when that love becomes the main character on center stage the play has taken an unscripted turn and we don’t know quite what to do.
Pause to reflect on the story in Thomas A’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, which speaks of how the Christ on the crucifix suddenly spoke to the monk who was so anxious about his salvation and said, “If you knew that all was well, what would you, today, do, or stop doing? When you have found the answer, do it or stop doing it.”
Love has taken center stage, and as Julian of Norwich says, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
So, forgive us for keeping your love at arms distance. Forgive us for leaving you at church each Sunday, locked behind double doors and shuttered windows. It seems that one morning a week of your personal and powerful love is all we can take. Forgive us for desiring the well scripted lives of our own making to the loving improvisation you offer. Forgive our fear of bringing you into our lives and in turn being brought into yours. Allow your love to calm our fears. Free us to lose ourselves in you, for only thus we shall be truly found. Amen.
4th Sunday of Lent-March 30
L. Praise the Lord!
A. How good it is to sing praises to our God; for God is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
L. The Lord builds up…
A. The Lord gathers the outcasts…
L. The Lord heals the brokenhearted,
A. And binds up their wounds.
L. The Lord determines the number of the stars;
A. And gives to them all their names.
L. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
A. God’s understanding is beyond measure
L. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden…
A. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving!
L. Let us sing and give thanks. Praise the Lord!
Prayer (adapted from the Book of Common Worship)
Lord, tireless guardian of your people, ever prepared to hear the cries of your chosen ones, teach us to rely, day and night, on your care. Support our prayer, lest we grow weary. Drive us to seek your enduring justice and your ever-present help. In our time together this day, remind us of your covenant promise to be our God and to make us your people by your grace and forgiveness. All that we might praise you in joyful worship this day and always. Through your Son and in your Spirit we pray. Amen.
Day 23 of Lent-Monday-March 31
“Self denial conjures up in our minds all sorts of images of groveling and self-hatred. We imagine that it most certainly means the rejection of our individuality an dwill probably lead to various forms of self-mortification. On the contrary, Jesus calls us to self-denial without self hatred. Self-denial is simply a way of coming to understand that we do not have to have our own way. Our happiness is not dependent on getting what we want.”
O Lord our God, your Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we receive grace upon grace. This sounds good, but in reality it is not an easy thing for us to accept. We would rather control what we get, not trust you to give what we need. We’d rather look over the menu, place our order and have you fill it, than come and be presented with whatever the Chef feels like making for us. Frankly, we’d rather have it our way than yours.
Forgive our stubborn refusal to receive what you give because we want something else. Forgive our lusting for lesser gods which appeal to our flesh but destroy our spirit. Forgive our refusal of your grace because we don’t trust your goodness. Free us from our small minded wants and quicken a desire for the true food that endures for eternal life. This we pray in the name of the Holy One of God, who not only has the words of eternal life, but is that Word. Amen.
Thought for the day: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Day 24 of Lent-Tuesday-April 1
“….A person of quick temper acts foolishly.”
“….fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
“…..the complacency of fools destroys them”
“…..fools die for lack of sense.”
“….the mind of a fool broadcasts folly.”
“…. to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.”
“….whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.”
“…..the mouths of fools feed on folly.”
“….A fool’s lips bring strife, and a fool’s mouth invites a flogging.”
“…. The mouths of fools are their ruin, and their lips a snare to themselves.”
“…..like a thornbush brandished by the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”
“….Do not be quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”
“….Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.”
“But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; an if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You Fool!’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Forgive our foolish ways, O Lord,
cleanse our devilish hearts.
Grant wisdom for our walking, God,
and the awe true worship imparts. Amen.
Thought for the day: “The fear (Holy Awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Day 25 of Lent-Wednesday-April 2
“Never was a mother so blind to the faults of her child as our Lord is toward ours.”
Dear Lord, you love us more than we love ourselves; more than we love life itself. Why then can’t we bring ourselves to trust you? We crave tangible reassurances of your faithfulness. We demand ever more convincing proofs of your abiding presence. Your love must be money in our bank accounts before we’ll trust it.
Safety has become our great passion. We can no longer afford to make mistakes. Endless analysis has replaced creative action. Our willingness to risk is submerged in a raging sea of nagging doubts. We must have absolute clarity before we trust and act.
And already you have forgiven our folly. The only guarantee in this life is your eternal and steadfast love. Forgive us for basing our lives on anything else. May your love free us to trust, to try, to live and to love. Amen.
Thought for the day: “For the Lord is good and God’s steadfast love endures forever…”
Day 26 of Lent-Thursday-April 3
“We are Christ’s
by virtue of His sacrifice.
In Him God does not sacrifice another
so that we have someone else to thank.
Instead, coming to us in our sister and brother,
He surrenders His own prerogatives and rank.
If He’s to become incarnate in us
and work through our acts of love and trust
It’s imperative that we live out the Christ-narrative
of costly sacrifice,
emulating our most significant Other
by giving ourselves to one another,
becoming in truth the Body of Christ.”
God of the covenant, through the ministry of Jesus, our High Priest, we have been made your sons and daughters; thus heirs of all your gracious promises. You have made through Jesus a new and living way into the fullness of your fellowship and blessing. But we have treated that fellowship contemptuously. We have given it only lip service and then gone our merry ways serving the gods of our own choosing. We have neglected both the assembly of the saints and the closet of personal communion with you.
By your tender mercies, O Lord, make us more receptive to your Spirit. Grant us hearts that yearn deeply for your presence. Give us the brash enthusiasm of children who run to your throne with boundless expectation. Forgive us and restore us to fellowship with yourself and with one another, that we not be lead astray by the idols and images of our age. All this we pray in the name of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thought for the day: “You are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Day 27 of Lent-Friday-April 4
“Thinking and acting Christianly in the blizzard of modern information and change requires the courage of a prophet, the wisdom of a sage, and the character of a saint.” (Os Guinness)
Dear Lord, you have blessed us with your grace and mercy. You have saved us through the life, death and resurrection of your Son. You have called us to be your people, your sons and daughters, your representatives in this time and place. We are grateful for the blessings and your saving presence. But your call is difficult and puts us at odds with the culture and society in which we live. It is far easier to blend in and get along and not make too many waves. True prophets were never liked, and we do enjoy being liked.
Forgive us, O Lord. We do not have the courage of the prophets. For all the information we have at our fingertips, true wisdom is in short supply. Our fickle wants, conflicting loyalties and selfish desires have cast a long, dark shadow over the wholehearted and single minded devotion of the saints. Though completely undeserving we pray that you would grant us the knowledge of our salvation by the forgiveness of our sin. This we ask that we might serve you without fear, in holiness and righteousness all our days. Amen.
Thought for the day:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God….”
Day 28 of Lent-Saturday-April 5
“Our task is to develop a church culture that embodies the gospel story.” (John Alexander)
God of covenant love, it is your grace that will not leave us to our own devices. Though we make grand declarations of our faith, this is not all the faith is about. Though we are members of a church, our names on a role will not suffice. Though we recite the Lord’s Prayer, sing the Doxology and can even quote John 3:16; these alone do not constitute whole hearted trust in you.
Forgive us our presumption. Quicken us to bear fruit worthy of repentance. Return us to the way of life charted by your covenant love which we see gloriously revealed in the life of your Son Jesus. Baptize us in your Spirit and purify us with the fire of your holy presence. All this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thought for the day: “The starting point of discipleship is God’s love for us.” (John Alexander)
5th Sunday of Lent-April 6
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
If you are weary and spiritually depleted; in need of rest for your soul;
If out of grief or deep concern you mourn, and long for comfort;
If you struggle to find your footing, and need a place to stand;
If you know there’s something wrong and need a helping hand –
God welcomes you to come in the name of Christ.
May those hungering for justice and thirsty for love, be filled
May all of us in need of mercy receive, then give, that none go without.
With hearts open to the Spirit may a glimpse of God we receive,
And then pass on God’s peace to all that we meet.
Welcome and come – worship the Lord.
Come all you who are persecuted and maligned,|
Rejoice in the love that will not let you go,
Come and worship this God who invites,
Come to the feast, taste the Lord’s delights.
The Lord calls, we come, our worship to give, for by Word and Bread and Wine we live. Amen.
God of love,
as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us,
so may we give ourselves to you,
living according to your holy will.
Keep our feet firmly in the way where Christ leads us;
make our mouths speak the truth that Christ teaches us,
fill our bodies with the life that is Christ within us,
enliven our worship with the Spirit that Christ gives us.
In his holy name we pray. Amen.
(Book of Common Worship)
Day 29 of Lent-Monday, April 7
“God knows we are children, which is why the Bible so often draws on that parallel. At the same time, God yearns for us to grow toward the parent stage of sacrificial love, which most accurately reflects God’s own nature.”
Most gracious God, you accept us just as we are, warts and all. Your love wraps us in the warm, kind hands of your forgiveness. This is where you meet us, all of us and all of each one of us.
But you will not let us be satisfied with this blissful state. Just as babies crawl then walk and finally run, bringing delight to their parents; you too are delighted when we begin to crawl, then walk and finally run as we live this life with you. Life with you encompasses everything we are and all we do. Life with you cannot stay in only warm and cozy places.
Forgive the ways we try to keep our spiritual lives in comfortable places like church and private devotions. Forgive us for twisting our encounter with you into a matter of mere sentiment severed from your purpose of mission. Forgive our fears and reluctance to be agents of your transformation in the particulars of life. Launch us forth to run without growing weary, to walk without fainting as we both embody and proclaim your Kingdom of justice, peace, righteousness, compassion, sharing and caring – one person and one day at a time. May your Spirit empower us we pray. Amen.
Thought: We draw nearest to God in likeness when we give ourselves away.
Day 30 of Lent-Tuesday, April 8
“Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.”
In this spinning swirl of life, we have mistaken ourselves for the tip around which the whole top turns. We would never admit it, but we sure do live as if we were:
the sun around which the planets revolve,
the eye of the hurricane,
the center of cosmic attention,
the focal point of divine vision
the hinge on which the universe swings.
But your merciful truth tells us something different.
(observe a silence, relinquish centrality to God….)
Lord of life, you are the center of all that is. When we try to take your place we become little, individual whirlwinds of activity that last only a few moments then vanish, or like smoke rings fading as they expand, disappearing as they diffuse into thin air.
You knew us before we were born, you hold us now and you keep us throughout all eternity. Forgive our presumptuous spirits. Forgive us for trying to define and live life based solely on our own concerns and efforts. Raise our heads and direct our gaze to you. Speak to us and call us to yourself that we might be rooted and grounded in your eternal love, to live life by the breath and power of your Spirit which never gives out. All this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thought: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me…” (Ex. 20:2-3) ….not even yourself; especially not yourself.
Day 31 of Lent-Wednesday, April 9
“However, a vexing problem muddies the waters – the reality that we are sinners; our hearts can so easily deceive us. While we can affirm our desire for good and our longing to act in love and truth, we also must recognize inner propensities that are fueled by nothing other than fear, greed, lust, sloth, pride or any number of other inclinations that undermine good intentions.”
(Gordon Smith: The Voice of Jesus)
Our inclinations undermine our good intentions, Lord. St. Paul knew this too when he wrote, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7)
We delight in your love, but when we try to show it we twist it round to get something in return, a thinly disguised self-love. Your open handed generosity is inspiring. Why can’t we respond in kind? Your mercy and forgiveness is transforming us from the inside out, yet we still hold grudges, carry resentments and count offenses. We are inclined to sin, O Lord, and this inclination is ruining the life we intend to live. Incline your ear to hear our prayer: Forgive us and save us from ourselves. Amen.
Challenge: Read Romans 7:14-25 asking where your intentions are thwarted by your inclinations. What help is there? And for a little fun:
“A Romans 7 Kinda Guy” (selected stanzas)
I’m just a Romans 7 kinda guy,
Looking for your splinter, but with a log in my eye,
I see what’s right and good, but it seems pie in the sky,
‘Cause every time I try it, I come up shy.
When I try to do what’s right, it turns out so wrong
Just when I think I’ll be a help, I turn in to King Kong
When I try to do what’s good, it ends up so bad,
And my well intentioned words only make people mad.
I’m just a Romans 7 kinda guy,
looking for your splinter, but with a log in my eye.
Ever get the feeling, but you don’t know why,
that everything you’ll ever do is wrong, so why try?
I try to love my kids, but end up spoiling ‘um rotten,
Gave ‘um toys but not my time, now I’m all but forgotten,
And I really want to love my wife and be a better man,
But I went and left the seat up, and she fell into the can.
I’m just a Romans 7 kinda guy,
Looking for your splinter, but with a log in my eye.
I know what I need to do, and that’s no lie,
But all I do is mess it up, every time I try.
Yeah, I’m just a Romans 7 kinda guy,
a wretched wreck really deserving to die,
I only wish what counted were the things I thought to do,
‘cause the things I did and left undone hurt both me and you.
Day 32 of Lent-Thursday, April 10
“For a long time, I tried to believe that I could learn enough and strengthen my will enough to take complete charge of my own life, but it never quite seemed to work.”
O Lord and Ruler of all, you have made us citizens of your glorious kingdom. You’ve promised to lead us into the promised land which is flowing with milk and honey. You have made a place for us in your home, and come to make your home with us. Why is it we cannot willingly accept all this from you and trust your covenant? Why do we have to be so headstrong and stubborn? Why do we have to do it our way, stay in control and be in complete charge?
Forgive us our willfulness. Teach us to live as children of heaven, trusting fully your goodness and rule. Help us to believe your promise and covenant. Lead us in your way, plant in our hearts your truth that we might live the life to which you call us. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thought: “…therefore… lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called… There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Live this God life to which you have been called!
Day 33 of Lent-Friday, April 11
“Christ our companion, you came not to humiliate the sinner, but to disturb the righteous. Welcome us when we are put to shame, but challenge our smugness, that we may truly turn from what is evil, and be freed even from from our virtues…”
“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss, because of Christ… I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Forgive us Lord, for when given the choice we choose gains
over losses. It is how we make our way in this world. But
we see a different way in your disciples. We see a
different way in your cross.
“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things… that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in God, the righteousness from God based on faith.”
All things? Are we to suffer the loss of all things? What about all that is good within us? What about what is right with us? We can understand suffering the loss of our sin and shame. But will our virtues be burned away also?
“I want to know Christ…. forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Disturb our righteousness, challenge our smugness, push us past our virtues into a new passion for your presence; a passion that sees not losses, but the glorious gain of knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord. In his name we pray. Amen.
Thought: “Paul gave up everything – his pride of birth, upbringing and character – in order to obey the crazy gospel of the crucified Messiah. Then, he discovered that following this Messiah meant a continual self-giving, pouring out his own energy, devotion and life itself at the feet of the one who had ‘made him his own.’”
(N. T. Wright)
Day 34 of Lent-Saturday, April 12
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”
(1 John 1:6-7)
Dear Lord and Father of us all, we confess that just as Adam and Eve hid from you after they’d eaten of the forbidden fruit, so we too hide in the shadows from your light. We know something is wrong and fear the shame of exposure. Not all is right within us. Our thoughts, actions and inactions betray us. We are judgmental, prejudiced, and biased in our own favor. We crave power, not love. We value personal security, over mutual fellowship. We love flattery that hides the truth…
(continue in this vein with your personal confessions)
Forgive us, we pray. Enlighten our lives with your truth that we may confess our sin and experience anew the forgiveness and cleansing which you bring. May we walk in your light and enjoy the genuine unity of fellowship which your grace brings. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Good News:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Last Sunday of Lent, April 13
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise God in his mighty firmament!
Praise God for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals!
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Great God and King of all, it pleased you to reconcile all things through the cross of your Son, our Lord, Christ Jesus.
We were once estranged from you. We’d rebelled against your rule and pleasure, considering only how we could rule our own kingdoms and pursue our own pleasures. And thus we, your flock, scattered, each to that vain quest of being like gods.
You stopped at nothing to bring us back, gather us together, and save us even from ourselves. As you stated: when you are lifted up you will draw all to yourself, and so you have. And we, your gathered flock are here this day, to worship the king, all glorious above, who was glorious too on the cross of his love. Let our worship this day be fitting for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.
Almighty God, give us wisdom to perceive you, intellect to understand you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, an heart to meditate on you and life to proclaim you, through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Benedict of Nursia)
Day 35 of Lent-Monday, April 14
“Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; the Lord’s steadfast love endures for ever.”
“Both we and our ancestors have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly. Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt did not consider your wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled against the Most High at the Sea of Reeds.” (Psalm 106:6-7)
Like the acorn that did not fall far from the tree, we too have not considered your wonderful works. Intent on our agendas, slaves to the tyranny of the urgent, we grow blind to both your goodness and care. Consumed with our busyness, the beauty, power, and provision of your creation goes unnoticed. Anxious over the future, your saving graces and upholding faithfulness is quickly forgotten. We may not rebel outright, but we slip away all to easily with causal denials and prudent betrayals.
“Yet God saved them for God’s name sake, so that God’s mighty power might be made known. God rebuked the Sea of Reeds and it became dry, God led them through the deep as through a desert. So God saved them from the hand of the foe, and delivered them from the hand of the enemy.” (Psalm 106:8-10)
Save us, we beseech Thee, save us from ourselves. Let our iniquity be the occasion for the mighty power of your forgiveness. Lead us through the deep confusion and manifold temptations that threaten to overwhelm us. Deliver us that we might praise and give thanks to you, O Lord, for your steadfast love endures forever. Amen.
“Then they believed God’s words; they sang God’s praise.”
Day 36 of Lent-Tuesday, April 15
“Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; the Lord’s steadfast love endures for ever.”
“But they soon forgot God’s works; they did not wait for God’s counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert…” (Psalm 106:13-14)
So quick are we to forget the blessings and benefits, while the hurts and frustrations enjoy constant rehearsal. Our selective memory erodes faith in your generosity, and we end up putting you to the test demanding satisfaction for our cravings. Our cravings control us and keep us from perceiving our deeper needs. Rather than wait for your counsel, we turn to other sources to fill our wants. We go to the fridge searching for a cure for a spiritual malnutrition. We turn to success to give us significance. We put our faith in financial security to give us hope for the future. We pray for what we want as if you were a heavenly vending machine.
Father forgive us, for we have sinned…… Amen.
“Save us, O Lord our God… that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”
Day 37 of Lent-Wednesday, April 16
“Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good; the Lord’s steadfast love endures for ever.”
“They were jealous of Moses in the camp, and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord.” (Psalm 106:16)
Jealousy is just the tip of the iceberg, O Lord. We look at everything through eyes green with envy. We envy the co-worker who got promoted when we were most certainly the more deserving. We envy those with new cars, nice houses, fine clothes, fit bodies; we are jealous of folks who seem to have it all together, live the balanced life, and appear free from stress and worry. The green eyed monster rears its ugly head when the neighbor’s kid made the traveling soccer team and ours did not, and when SAT scores are revealed and our son’s or daughter’s are not on top, and when several seniors got into the college our’s sought but did not. Jealousies breed criticism, nurture resentment, kill relationships, leave the jealous in deep despair. Forgive us, O Lord, and teach us contentment. As St. Paul could be content in any circumstance, let us so learn that the circumstances themselves do not make for lasting contentment, only you offer that. May we find our contentment in your unfailing love, and be free to celebrate all the goodness and blessing bestowed on others, never thinking that, “it should be me.” Amen.
“Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord, or declare all God’s praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
Day 38 of Lent-Thursday, April 17
“They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt… and awesome deeds by the Sea of Reeds.” (Psalm 106:19-22)
We must confess, O Lord, our restlessness and impatience with you. The admonition “wait upon the Lord,” falls on ears filled with quick answers, speedy solutions, easy ways out, fast turn arounds, and the many other messages we receive from our goddess “Efficiency.” Next to her stands another idol, “Success” with the many benchmarks carved in rising order so one can measure just where one is. “Security” demands his sacrifices and offerings, while “Family” is the often the goddess where we get them. There is even an idol erected to “Church” which calls for support, and demands commitment, but only to her perpetuity. A “Bible” has an inscription, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it!” Lesser idols line the great hall, “Cars,” “Clubs” (both golf and country), one made up of a various balls, pucks, bats and such. “Job” has a nose-to-the-grindstone sculpture beneath it, while “Kids” has one of a Mom with children in tow, and helicopter blades spinning wildly atop her head. Behind the altar at the end of the great hall, is the holy of holies in the temple of idolatry. Pull back the curtain and step inside and there it is, the idol of idols, the god of the gods, whose graven image is – a “Mirror.” How strange to confront a god who looks just like me.
Forgive us, O God, for with all these other gods, we have forgotten you. You, who are our Savior. Delivering us from the lesser gods, got you arrested, tried, convicted, crucified. Yet still you managed to defeat their death. By your wondrous works and awesome deeds, we are freed from the temple of idolatry. Forgive our re-entry, lead us out, again and again, to the Way, Truth and Life. Amen.
“Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you deliver them.”
Day 39 of Lent-Friday, April 18
“They despised the pleasant land, having no faith in God’s promise. They grumbled in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.”
In taking for granted the good gifts you give, O Lord, we despise you. Are our expectations out of line with your provision? Do we expect too much and want more? Or are we hoping along the wrong lines, thus blind to the pleasant land of your presence?
We have so much which we seem to enjoy so little. When will we learn that happiness is more closely aligned with relatedness than with stuff? We grumble in our tents, murmur in our cubicles, complain to our spouses when we are not complaining about them. We are masters at the snide remark, the sneer, the disgruntled look, the dissatisfied sigh: “Yes, but….” and “Oh, whatever.” We are quick to spot shortcomings, find failings, note anything that isn’t up to our snuff. We are not a people of little faith, Lord, we are a people of no faith. No faith in your promises, no faith in your goodness, no faith in your faithful, steadfast love, no faith in the covenants you have made. Your covenant with Abraham included the promise to lead him to the land you would show him. He trusted your word, knew that you would, and the land would be good.
Your promise came to us in the flesh. Through Jesus you promised to lead us to the land you would show us. And good to your word, Jesus showed the way, truth and life. But it was not what we expected. Our grumbling led to outright hostility as we crucified him, rather than listen to his word. O Lord, how can you ever forgive us?
“Time and again God rescued them…. bearing the covenant in mind, God relented in his boundless and faithful love….”
Day 40 of Lent-Saturday, April 19
“They worshiped those nations’ false gods, till they found themselves entrapped, and sacrificed their own sons and daughters to demons. Innocent blood they shed, the blood of their sons and daughters; offering them to the idols of Canaan, they polluted the country with blood. They defiled themselves with such actions….” (Psalm 106:37-39)
It is Holy Saturday, O Lord, and innocent blood has been shed. Not that of our sons and daughters, but the blood of your son who was crucified and died. A soldier pierced his side and blood and water ran out. Innocent blood. The blood of your son. How can you refrain from wiping us all off the face of the earth?
The worship of false gods is rampant in our world and in our churches. Plenty of life is sacrificed to demons. Why can’t we stop? “Might makes right,” we think, and “it is a dog-eat-dog world, so better be the top dog” we tell our kids. We sacrifice their innocence to our insecurity and unfaith. But worse, when the truth came and lived among us, we could not tolerate it. Your truth exposed our fears. Your truth challenged our presumptions. Your truth made us uncomfortable. Your truth meant we were living lies. And so we did away with your truth. Innocent blood we shed for we were entrapped by the lies we were led to believe.
And today, you are in the tomb. Truth is buried deep in the earth, the stone covers the entrance, the only hope is that it will come out the other side.
The blood of your son has been shed. Life is in the blood, they say, and the blood of your son brings life, though this is solely by grace and wholly unearned, undeserved, and unexpected. The blood of your son which should scream for vengeance instead pleads forgiveness for the very ones who shed it in the first place. The blood of your son is poured out to cover the sins of many, and that includes us. So the blood we shed you have used to forgive us and call us forth from anymore blood letting and to an active forgiven, as your son has forgiven even us. Amen. Amen.
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from all eternity and for ever! Let all the people say, ‘Amen’.”
Concluding prayers in preparation for Easter
You have called us, we have come.
To this time of gathered adoration.
To you all praise and glory be,
And our hidden faults your mercy see.
Inspire your word to flow and fill,
Souls, hearts, minds and will.
From here to follow along your way
Ever attentive to Spirit’s sway.
Thank you, Lord for this great pleasure,
Your kingdom given for us to treasure.
May worship lead us to heaven’s door,
Flung open to love’s great treasure store.
Now we bid thee Lord, come again,
That the world see, and know, and shout “Amen!”