WHY LENT BRINGS ME JOY

The Lenten Season is my favorite liturgical season. Some people think it is strange to like Lent. It seems too somber and penitential to be liked – like a facebook status that shares sad or painful news yet news that has the potential to lead to something good.  Is it appropriate to “like” such a status?

ash wednesdayIs it appropriate to like Lent? A season where we are reminded of our mortality with a holy smudge. A season of self-reflection on the pervasiveness of our sin and our humanity. Perhaps it is if we see the potential for good. As Sara Parsons says, “perhaps Lent is a season of joy when we look at ourselves, not so we may criticize ourselves more harshly but so we can identify the obstructions that keep us from God.” What prevents us from being fully devoted followers of Jesus? How do we avoid God and why? What is standing in the way of us surrendering fully to the leadership of the Lord? Lent provides a regular rhythm for us to seek out these hindrances and, with God’s grace and strength, cut these hindrances out of our lives to fully fling ourselves into God’s grace and mercy.

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Hunger

This is the devotion I wrote for our church’s Lenten devotion book this year. It was for yesterday, the sixth Sunday in Lent and coincided with my sermon on the same text.

Luke 15:11-32 “But while he was still far off, his father saw him was filled with compassion…”

share foodOur passage today is the well known story of the Prodigal Son; a story with a myriad of truths and challenges. Today let’s focus on the moment at which the lost son faces the reality of his situation.

It is hunger that brought him to his senses. Verse 17 tells us that the prodigal son finally faced the harsh reality of his situation when he was desperately hungry and could not find anything to satisfy his hunger. He had sunk to his lowest, knee deep in swine slop and waste and found himself wanting.

Our hunger for something more, something satisfying often wakes us up to the reality of how far we’ve wandered. Sometimes we have to find ourselves nose to snout in order to see the filth that is our life. Sometimes it is the gnawing hunger pains of our soul that force us to seek out true sustenance. 

In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

During this journey during Lent, join me in paying attention to our hunger. What have you been feeding on that is not satisfying? Are we truly feasting on the Bread of Life or are we trying to placate our hunger with empty things? 

Let our hunger wake us up. The table is set. The invitation has been sent. The Meal has been provided. Return home to feast upon the Bread of Life.

Crazy Sister Love

Today I turned in my devotion for our upcoming Lenten devotional book here at the church.  It is a wonderful treasure of writings and art from members of our church and it is a blessing to read the thoughts and hearts of individuals that often don’t get the opportunity to share.

My devotion was based on the John 12:1-11 passage where Jesus is anointed with expensive oils by Mary, Lazarus’s sister.

Growing up, my sister and I had your normal sibling love/hate relationship.  I can remember some fun times and I remember some passionate fights but when she left for college, our friendship blossomed and two years later when I followed her to college, we roomed together.  We often made trips to Springfield, Missouri, for some “culture” and that included shopping.  On one trip to Battlefield Mall, we walked past a store of paintings and prints and I was struck by one displayed in the window.  It was a large print of a painting titled Reflections by Lee Teter of a man leaning against the Vietnam Memorial with soldier images reflected from inside “The Wall”.  I fell in love with the print immediately and went in to see how much it cost.  It was $60.  It might as well have been $600 to this poor college student.

 

Several months later on my nineteenth birthday, I unwrapped the gift from my sister – still a college student herself.  It was the print.  I was in shock.  What an extravagant gift for her to give to me! Especially when I could be such a brat of a sister. It is one of the few gifts that I’ve ever cried over – not because of how much it cost (which I felt bad about) but because I knew she loved me.  She really loved me!

 

Mary loved Jesus.  She really loved Him.  So much so that she broke the alabaster jar and poured onto the feet of Jesus her most extravagant gift.  The disciples were shocked at the waste of such expensive oils but they missed the point.  This was a sacred moment with Jesus. Mary realized it. Mary sensed it.  And Mary responded giving all that she had – the precious oils and herself – in love to Christ. 

 

My sister broke the alabaster jar and gave me a cherished print – and her love.  Today, that print hangs in my living room in a prominent place.  When I look at it, I am moved not only by the story in the painting but by the story behind the painting as well.

 

What is in your alabaster jar?  What is in mine?  What is the most extravagant and sacrificial gift we can present to Jesus on this journey to the Cross to show our love for Him and Him alone?