Lenten Reflection: Week 5

The “Lectionary” is fancy word for a collection of scripture readings from the Bible. It follows the Christian Calendar for 3 years, organizing scripture into groups that compliment the different seasons of the liturgical year. By the end of the three year period, almost all of the Bible has been covered. Many congregations and denominations follow the Lectionary texts every week to ensure that they are covering most of the Bible over a few years and that they are following the Christian Calendar. One of the Lectionary texts from this past Sunday, for example, came from John 12:1-8. Since next week is Holy Week, the week leading up to it uses the text where Mary anoints Jesus for burial.

John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor? (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The power of Mary’s witness here is that she acts without being told. She knew how to live out Jesus’ commandment of love before he ever gave it. She offered something of great value to her, despite all the other ways she could have used it. She embraced Jesus’ departure from her before he ever explained the full meaning of it. Mary was so overwhelmed with love for Jesus that this act of service just poured out of her.

Being disciples of Christ means that we are seeking out ways to show love to others and deepen our connection with Jesus. We are not just waiting for opportunities to come to us. For the remainder of this Lenten Season, let yourself be overwhelmed with love for Christ. Like Mary did, let this love pour out of you. Let Jesus know just how much he means to you.

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Lenten Reflection: Week 4

Lent is a wonderful time to create space in your life for prayer. As you do, prayer can start to become a habit–something you do every morning, meal, car ride, or evening. These small moments can draw us away from the chaos of our days and into a sacred space with God, even if only for a few minutes.

The Book of Common Prayer is an old book, originally published in 1549, created by the Anglican Church as a product of the English reformation. The book is used today by Christian churches all over the world. The different forms of prayers and liturgies are meant to set rhythm to the Christian day and year. It contains morning, afternoon, and evening prayers as well as special prayers for events and seasons throughout the year.

Each short prayer listed below is from The Book of Common Prayer. Find one that speaks to you today and make it a priority to work that prayer into your routine each day for a week. Every day, take a few moments to read the prayer aloud several times. Then, observe how God can speak to you in those moments.

Give us grateful hearts, our Father, for all thy mercies,
and make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bless, O Lord, thy gifts to our use and us to thy service;
for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lenten Reflection: Week 3

We’ve made our way through a big part of the lenten season. At this point, many of us may have slipped on the practices we promised to do, or stop doing, this lenten season. We tend to be people that make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep working hard to spend time with God this season. Nadia- Bolz-Weber made a list of things we can do to “Keep Lent Holy.” If you’re feeling disappointed that you haven’t made enough time for God during lent, take a look at this list. Pick a thing, or two, that you can do this week to keep lent holy.

Pray for your enemies

Give $ to a non-profit of your choosing

Take 10 minutes of silence today

Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill

Do someone else’s chore

Read Psalm 139

Read Psalm 121

Pay a few sincere compliments

Tell someone what you are grateful for

Light an actual candle

Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher

Donate art supplies to your local elementary school

Pray for peace

 

Lenten Reflection: Week 2

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most influential preachers of our time. She is an American Episcopal priest, author, and professor. She has a way with words that makes you confront your own truths, and start to see things very differently then you did before. Some of her sermons on the season of lent do just that. The following is an excerpt from her lenten sermon, “The Wilderness Exam:”

The problem for most of us is that we cannot go straight from setting down the cell phone to hearing the still, small voice of God in the wilderness.  If it worked like that, churches would be full and Verizon would be out of business.  If it worked like that, Lent would only be about twenty minutes long.

What we have instead are forty whole days for finding out what life is like without the usual painkillers, which is how most of us learn what led us to use them in the first place.  Once you take the headphones off, silence can be really loud.  Once you turn off the television, a night can get really long.  After a while you can start thinking that all of this quiet emptiness or, worst case, all this howling wilderness, is a sign of things gone badly wrong: devil on the loose, huge temptations, no help from the audience, God gone AWOL–not to mention your own spiritual insufficiency to deal with any of these things.

But if you remember to breathe–and say your prayers–then nine times out of ten you can make it through your first night with no extra bread, power, or protection.  You can get used to the sound of your own heart beating and whatever it is that is yipping out there.  You may even be able to sleep a little while and wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being.  So there are thirty-nine days to go.  So don’t count.  Take it one day at a time.

BBT makes a really good point here. There are so many things in our life that we use to just fill up the silence…to fill up the time and the spaces that scare us. We think that we could not live without it, whatever it may be. The tv. The phone. The app. We think that we could not live without it, but we are wrong. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus spends 40 days without food because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

This week, when you think you can’t make it without that thing you gave up. When you think you need to fill all your time with sound. Stop and re-read these words from BBT. “Breathe and say your prayers.” You may like how it feels to slow down and make room for the Holy Spirit. “Take it one day at a time.” You make like how it feels to check in with yourself and with God every single day–no exceptions. “You may even wake up gladder to be alive than you can ever remember being.”

Lenten Reflection: Week 1

This past Wednesday, we held a special service that ended with placing ashes on our foreheads. While the practice may seem strange at first, it is a powerful reminder each year about our human frailty. We can learn much about the meaning of life and death when we take the time to read the scriptures that address these things. We are not invincible. We will fail, often, and we will disappoint God. Lent is a time to accept this truth, reflect on it, and work toward growing better.

Jesus has invited us to change our hearts and to become more like him. How are you working toward doing that this Lenten season? Often, during this time of year, people “fast” in order to realign their vision toward God. They give up something like chocolate or television. The other common Lenten practice is “almsgiving,” which is a fancy word for giving to others. These things are wonderful, but they are not enough in themselves if we do not accept Jesus’ invitation to change our hearts as well.

As you give up something for lent this year, try replacing the time or energy that thing took up in your life with time spent with Jesus. Instead of watching television, pick up a new devotional book. Instead of eating chocolate, say a little prayer every time you have a craving. Encourage your family to practice “almsgiving” by taking some of your old clothes or toys to North Raleigh Ministries. While you’re there, ask how you can pray for their mission this month.

We fast and give alms during lent for reasons. We fast to reflect on our sins and accept our dependence on God. We give alms because we are overjoyed by the forgiveness that God offers us. Psalm 32 says,

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

This lent, may we truly know and understand why we placed those ashes on our foreheads. May we seek forgiveness and rejoice in our Lord.

TBC ISRAEL TRIP cont.

“Did I tell you my grandfather was a bus driver. I want to go like him, in his sleep, not like his 50 screaming passengers”.
     That is not something you want to hear going up the winding roads of Golan Heights. The scenic overlooks were not for the faint of heart but the view was one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. It was really amazing to be in the place were Jesus preformed a miracle when casting the demons out of Legion. After reading about it and then later leading a devotion about the story at Mission Serve, it really makes it a special place to see and witness where Jesus preformed these miracles.
    Another shocking part of my day was standing so close to the Syrian border. Everywhere you looked you could see the border seemingly unthreatening and one could say easy to get through until you see the small yellow signs. They were land mines. Our tour guide Boaz took us to “the valley of tears” where the major battle on Yom Kippur took place in 1973. There we were able to stand on real tanks left in the same places they were during the war.

     One of the highlights of my trip so far was the Yardenit. The Yardenit is the place that you are able to be baptized in the Jordan river. It has always been a dream of mine to be baptized in the same river that Jesus was so long ago and it was surreal that I actually had the opportunity to and that Dr. Roberts baptized us.

   All in all the first days have been adventure filled and tiring!
-Gabby Paula
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TBC Israel Trip: Day 1

Today, we traveled to Israel and going half way around the world is a journey in and of itself. First, we took a bus for 3 hours from Trinity to Charlotte. Once we got to Charlotte and made it through the long ticket line, we took a plane from Charlotte to Munich, Germany, which was just a “quick” flight of 8 hours. Our layover in Germany was very eventful as all we wanted was a soda but no one knew how to use the vending machine. No one could figure out how to use this machine because it was only in German! (If Mark Munday can’t do it then no one can) One of the biggest lessons I learned while traveling internationally is bring your own food, airplane food is the worst and I will never eat it ever again. It really seems appealing, the whole thought of eating food on a plane that is hot and brought right to you, but after that second flight you really start to feel it. The flight from Munich to Tel Aviv felt like a breeze being only 4 hours. (I’m pretty sure I was asleep the whole time but I don’t really know at this point after being awake for 30 hours straight) All around the first day was pretty uneventful yet eventful all at the same time but Israel is 7 hours ahead of the US so I’m pretty sure I am just saying that because of the jet lag.

-Gabby Paula