Lent Readings(112 Posts)
In previous years I've posted a prayer a day for Lent. This year I thought I'd try to do the same thing but with Bible readings. I'll be using the Anglican lectionary for this year, but will choose just one passage, and may only post part of it - just to keep the length manageable. Come and join in (add thoughts, comments, prayers, whatever) if you'd like to.
Day 1: 10th February - Psalm 103, 8-14
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
He will not always accuse us,
nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.
As a father cares for his children,
so does the Lord care for those who fear him.
For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.
'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return'. The psalmist reminds us of our weakness and frailty, but only in order to remind us that God's love for us is always greater than our ability to mess up; that just as a parent loves her or his children - not despite their vulnerability but because of it - God loves us and forgives our mistakes, and that whenever the fragile edifices of our lives and our selves seem to be about to crumble to nothingness, God can rebuild us and make us whole again. May this Lent be a time of rebuilding. And, in refashioning ourselves from the dust, may we also try to find ways to support those around us as they too work to reshape themselves anew.
What a lovely idea TUO. It came just a bit after my bedtime, but I want to tack on the thought I had last night.
I have taken on William Cliff (Bishop of Brandon, Canada)'s 40 things to give up during Lent, the first one is 'Fear of failure'. So often are we stopped from doing things just because we fear we cannot cope with the idea that we will not bring it off. Today it will be: 'My comfort zone'. Am I prepared to let go of that protective shell of comfort? I don't know. I know I was fearful of going to church last night, last year's was so awful that I could not go up for communion (not quite sure now what happened) but I did go and it was (on the whole) alright and I'm glad I went.
So TUO's words ring true: crumbling to nothingness and being rebuilt by the Holy Spirit, without fear of failure. Going forward with courage, being prepared to let go of the comfort zone.
May the new day bring many blessings to us all. Thanks be to God.
Thanks Tuo lovely idea.
For anyone looking for ideas on how to be more generous during Lent (in addition to being more prayerful, of course!) I came across this site yesterday: www.40acts.org.uk/the-challenge/
11th February: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We're right at the beginning of Lent, and it can feel like a long slog from here to Easter (says she, who's been craving biscuits all day). This passage reminds us of the hope that lies at the end of this period of self-denial and penitence. It also reminds us that even when things are tough, God is always with us, and that it is in those difficult times that we are shaped, refined, and perfected.
Thank you for your comments Oma and Edith, and thanks for that link - I like that idea (and have just washed up!). I'm glad you felt able to go to church yesterday, Oma, and that it wasn't as bad as you feared.
Oh my, maybe it's just me, but that passage makes me feel a bit inadequate! The strength of faith described there seems unattainable most of the time.
I feel a bit better when I think of Abou Ben Adhem That's why I like the 40 acts thing I think - much easier to do a thorough clean of the kitchen at the winter night shelter...
But if Lent is all about doing the hard thing, then I should be focussing more on Scripture and less on the kind of stuff I would probably do anyway. Must try harder!
I think perhaps that the feeling of inadequacy is the point, Edith. The passage for me is like the person shouting 'Come on, you can do it!' by the side of the road to the people running a marathon...
I don't know. It's so easy to make God out to be a knit-picking judge, who makes you feel indequate and who makes you do 'hard' things.
Whereas, when I read the beginning of that text: 'an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (v4)- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead' (v3) I do indeed 'greatly rejoice' (v6). Isn't it totally thrilling that Jesus gave up everything for us to give us this great inheritance? That we know that our souls are secure in Him (kept in heaven for you (v4), through no merit of our own? 'Inexpressable and glorious joy' (v8) is about the right answer to it, not un-ease that we are not doing enough.
Dear sisters, be encouraged by God's great love for us. En-joy!
I only just looked at William Cliff's list of things to give up in Lent and it is: Feelings of Unworthiness.
Dear sisters, be encouraged by God's great love for us.
Thank you, Oma. How lovely!
12th February: Deuteronomy 15:7-11
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
[Excuse American spellings, I'm using a US website to find the readings]
And, just for Edith, here's the 'acts' element. Surely now, as much as at any time, we are aware that there has never ceased to be, and will never cease to be, some in need on the earth. On this cold night, I pray for those who are homeless. I pray for refugees and those who've lost their homes, their livelihoods and their loved-ones to war. I pray for those who are ill, or whose loved-ones are ill. And for those who need help, but don't know how to ask for it. I love the idea (encompassed in the site you linked to, Edith) that Lent is not only about self-denial, but about giving (giving of things and, perhaps more importantly, giving of oneself).
Thank you so much tuo, that passage is great, and Amen to your prayer.
oma thank you too, I try to remember that
Today William Cliff's thing to give up is 'Impatience'
13th February: John 4, 43-end
Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household.
Another passage about believing what we cannot see, yet nonetheless being able to see signs of what we believe. Jesus understands how difficult this is; I don't think that the 'unless you see signs you won't believe' is said judgementally - it's a recognition of the fact that this is hard for us, and that we naturally want actions (just as the official here wants Jesus to do something), proof, something we can see, touch and know. Jesus simultaneously tells us that that's not always possible, and provides the very thing that the official most wanted. Sometimes, as in this case, it's not till later that we see God's hand in the things that happen to us and start to be able to make sense of them. And sometimes we con't make sense of them at all, and we can only do what the official has to do here and take Jesus' words on trust... Praying today for the courage and faith to trust God, no matter how difficult that may be.
Ok, bear with me here... The official wants Jesus to heal his son. Jesus heals his son (remotely I grant you). The official believes. The time lag is only a day, so you might say he just gives Jesus the benefit of the doubt for 24 hours, but then gets his proof. So he doesn't believe what he can't see, does he? Sorry, I think I'm feeling a little argumentative. Your take on it does make sense (natch); but I get so frustrated that everything can be interpreted a hundred different ways!
He still had to go away not knowing that Jesus had healed his son. 24 hours can be a long time. I take your point that he didn't believe until he had seen, Thomas, after the resurrection is the same and Jesus says that we are blessed if we believe without having seen.
I think that the passage just struck me this way because of the consonance with the passage from 1 Peter that I posted the other day. This thread is just for sharing 'stuff wot strikes me' rather than trying to do some kind of definitive explanation. But, yes, I take your point, Edith. It seems to me (and particularly in the context of Lent, and the journey towards Easter) that Jesus is here trying to start to 'wean people off' his physical presence as well as the sorts of miracles that he has performed in order to convince them of who he really is. He knows, as the crowds following him around and clamouring for miracles at this point don't, that this is a much longer story than anyone might have thought, one that extends beyond Jesus' own time on earth, and that his role is not only to bring healing (though he does heal the man's son) but also to give us hope precisely in those times when we will not be able to see him. So the day's distance between the official trusting Jesus and finally seeing that his son was cured becomes a metaphor for the time between the Ascension and now - a time of not knowing, not seeing, but of hoping, in the way that the official, hurrying back to Capernaum must have been hoping, torn between belief in Jesus and doubt.
14th February: Luke 4, 1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Three things strike me here. Firstly the humanity of Jesus. I am always struck by the sentence where it says '...he was famished'. Jesus is God, of course, but he is also human enough to feel real hunger and thirst, and to be really tempted. These temptations are not just 'for show' and do not show that Jesus is not susceptible to human weaknesses, but just the opposite. When I am weak, and when I know that I have made bad decisions, and not done what God would want me to do, I know that, on some level, God understands that weakness. The second thing that I notice though is the opening of the passage. This follows immediately after Christ's baptism, where his divinity is underscored. So he understands human weakness, but - being 'full of the Holy Spirit' - is able to transcend it. Finally, I notice that Jesus answers every temptation by recourse to Scripture, which reminds me that, like him, we don't have to face up to temptation and weakness on our own and drawing exclusively on our own resources and strength, but that we have the Bible (and other resources: friends and family and churches and MN and so on) to support us.
<wanders in late>
no change there then. <eyeroll>
thanks tuo. will read through later and catch up. you have already posted something that is one of my recent favourites on a topic I have been pondering.
I am sulking and ing and ing. about our churches lent stuff. I do not see myself as particulary spiritual.
more sweary and cross and stressed but the first three suggestions (i cheated and found an extra one) are all stuff I do already and I am a bit as I feel like I am being a bit "well I am ok i already do that" complacent, which is not what I want from a lent challenge. a lot is about everyday life and thinking about god in it. well as I hardly ever speak to other christians apart from over the internet, or get to go to house groups or bible studies or particulary listen in church due to loo trips and boy corralling I tend to do my thinking and praying on the go in everyday life. ironically they had a time when people had space to listen carefully to god and think what he had been saying.. which I missed taking a child to the loo. which is one of the reasons I do the everyday stuff.
what I do not do though is read the bible so reading and thinking will be helpful.
15th February: Matthew 25, 34-46
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
Feeling under the weather tonight, so this will be a brief (but heartfelt) reflection. BES - lovely to see you (and I definitely think that talking to other Christians on the internet 'counts'!).
The way in which we behave towards our fellow human beings is the way that we behave towards God. This is a beautiful passage for Lent, reminding us that it's not about what we give up, but about how we turn our lives around. Giving up - or working on giving up, because... let's be realistic - grumpiness, yelling, selfishness, sniping at others, and taking on generosity, kindness, understanding, openness to others is right at the heart of the Christian message, and suggests a positive way to approach Lent. May we never turn away from the sick, the needy, the hungry, the outsider, prisoners, refugees, the weak, and the vulnerable, but may we seek to embrace them, as we would embrace Jesus himself.
So that is the authority for that cheesy poem. Thank you
I should clearly spend more time on reading the Bible and less on dragging remnants of school English lessons from my fossilised brain.
16th February: 1 John 3, 1-3
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Only three verses, yet there is so much here. The passage starts with love. Everything starts with love. And the analogy of God the Father taken further: God is our Father, and we are his children... and just like in the case of children we don't yet know what we will become when we are fully grown, when we come fully to know God's love by becoming like him. We are not meant, yet, to have all the answers. We don't know what salvation - being like God, seeing ourselves in him and him in us - looks and feels like. But the desire to know God more, to be closer to God, gives us hope. And this hope (and love) itself purifies us; it's the desire to be more like God that actually makes us more like God. A different take on Lent and the idea of penitence... purification not by giving up, and not even by taking on, but just by clinging to the love of God and hoping in him. Love. Hope. Revelation.
17th February: 2 Timothy 4, 1-8
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Another passage about hope, then; but also a passage about the work that we should do, as Christians, to proclaim Christ's message, to be evangelists. I am reminded of the saying attributed to St Francis: 'Preach the gospel always; use words if necessary'. The passage makes me want to ask how I can proclaim God's message in my life, how the race that I run from day to day can be, in its very running, a work of evangelism or of ministry (in the loosest possible sense, of course).
how I can proclaim God's message in my life, how the race that I run from day to day can be, in its very running, a work of evangelism or of ministry
you answered your own question a couple of days ago...
^ giving up... grumpiness, yelling, selfishness, sniping at others, and taking on generosity, kindness, understanding, openness to others^
So we just need to try to love one another enough... in all that we do. Easy-peasy then, sorted.
<wanders in even later>
Hadn't seen this thread
Thankyou for this passage Tuo. It's very pertinent for me. As you know we're in a bit of a possible transition state ie may have to move by summer and things are so hard. God's reminding me to keep going and keep on for now. Thank you.
Ha! Yup, Edith... simple! However, we can try...
MHD - glad you liked that passage. I posted it before I saw you on the other thread, but I thought immediately that it might speak to you.
18th February: Psalm 130
Out of the depths have I cried to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you shall be feared.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than the night watch for the morning,
more than the night watch for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;
With him is plenteous redemption
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
This psalm reminds me that not every day is a good day, that there will be times when things feel tough and God feels far away. But the theme of hope that has emerged from other readings this Lent comes through so clearly here too. My soul waits for the Lord. It waits like a nightwatchman waiting for morning: the night may feel long and dark, but the nightwatchman knows that dawn will surely come, the sun will rise, clarity and warmth and light and hope will come back.
I'm also reminded of Christina Rossetti's poem, 'De Profundis', also about hope:
Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.
I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.
I never watch the scatter'd fire
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:
For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.
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