Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Three Posts for Next Three Days of Lent

Thursday After Ash Wednesday

On the 40 days of Lent
So, why is Lent 40 days long when it takes place over 46 days?

The period of Lent is 40 days of fasting before the celebration of Easter. It mirrors the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness before his ministry. According to Luke 4:1-11 (and you can read the parallel story in Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry in the world:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 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. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." 4 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'" 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 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. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 8 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" 9 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, 10 for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' 11 and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" 12 Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.

Reflect on these three temptations that Jesus faced. What are struggling with? Lord, help us with the temptations we face.

Friday After Ash Wednesday
Psalm 51 (and other penitential psalms)
In the history of the Lent, the Christian community, or the Church, has read seven “penitential psalms.” (They are, by the way, Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.)

Read and pray these selected verses from Psalm 51 and see how these speak words from your heart:
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.4Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.5Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.6You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.“10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.15O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.16For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.17The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
 Lord, hear our prayers of confession. Forgive, heal, and renew us.

Saturday After Ash Wednesday
Marjorie Thompson on the importance of God’s love and repentance
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
 I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3

As we continue in this journey or self-examination, I have found the insights of Marjorie Thompson invaluable. Her book, Soul Feast, in fact is a staple of our adult discipleship core curriculum. Here’s what she writes: “We need to know two basic truths if we wish to engage in self-examination as a healthy spiritual discipline.” What are these truths?
The first truth is the most basic affirmation of our faith: God loves us. This is not a general rule to which you, personally, may be an exception. It is not a conditional rule that applies only when you are good, pure, and lovable. God’s passionate and personal love for each and every human being expresses who God is. Unfailing love is the divine nature and the divine choice in relation to us. God loves us with an overwhelming love that none of our sins can erase.
            The second truth is our human weakness and brokenness in relation to God. We are creatures damaged by the disorientation of sin. Sin means being “off target,” like an arrow wrongly directed. Instead of being aimed toward God, we are aimed toward a distorted image of self. We are directed by self-centered desires, chained to unmet needs, compelled by illusions about who we are and what makes us acceptable or important.”            An important turning point in our spiritual life comes when we acknowledge both truths and admit that we can neither earn God’s love nor achieve our own security and perfection. We cannot ‘fix” ourselves or anyone else the way we want to. When we realize that grace lies at the center of lie, we start to see in a new way. Turning to face God instead of self is the beginning of the Good News, the beginning of personal and relational transformation. Scripture calls this turning “repentance.”
 It’s not worth going into these days of Lent without remembering these two truths.

God, thank you for loving us—now by your love draw us to a place of repentance and renewal.

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