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2018 Lent Reflections

Reflections on the Gospel readings during Lent, offered by parishioners and presented by the Center for Spiritual Formation.

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Lent Reflections
 
Sunday, March 18, 2018
 
 
John 12:20-33
 

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

 

"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Lenten season is rapidly coming to a close. On Ash Wednesday, it always seems like such a long season, but at this point you might be asking, "Where did it all go? Have I prepared properly by fasting from things that hinder my spiritual life? Have I feasted on things that are life-giving for me?"

 

If you are like me, no Lenten season is perfect. However, at this point, perhaps we should echo the desire of those in today’s Gospel who simply have one request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” In this last week, as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, may God open our eyes, so that we too, can see Jesus.  Amen.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Saturday, March 17, 2018
 
 
John 7:37-52
 

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

 

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet." Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

 

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?" The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law — they are accursed." Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?" They replied, "Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee." 

 
 
 
 
 
 

I am so blessed that 2000 years ago there were believers in God and people like Nicodemus and the temple police who came with an open mind and heart to listen to Jesus. They wanted to know the truth about God. Their desire to hear Jesus' message and their willingness to risk their reputations, positions, and relationships made it possible for the word of God to spread.

 

They heard about living water which meant the promises of eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit which was to come. This same message is the center of my faith. I look forward to the day the kingdom comes and I live each day with the knowledge that I may call on the Holy Spirit to come held my hand and give me to strength and peace that I need.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Friday, March 16, 2018
 
 
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
 

After speaking about the Bread of Life, Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near.

 

But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret.

 

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, "Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from." Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, "You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The South has a couple of questions in meeting a stranger: where are you from, Son? Whose your kin? Jesus plays around with both these questions: they know where he’s from — Galilee. But, if he is from Galilee, he can’t be the Messiah. But Jesus knows where he is really from — God the Father. His kin is also God the Father. The people of Jerusalem want him to be a Messiah in the manner of King David — establishing himself with a mighty kingdom. If he goes to Judea and Jerusalem openly in triumph, he will be killed as a political martyr. His Kingdom is not of this world.

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Thursday, March 15, 2018
 
 
John 5:30-47
 

Jesus said, "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

 

"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

 

"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?"

 
 
 
 
 
 

"I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him." I find this verse very sad, and yet, it could have been written today instead of almost two thousand years ago. We are quick to accept those in positions of authority (leaders, doctors, scientists, teachers) and to recognize their contributions. What about Jesus? Saying that I accept Jesus is the easy part. Living it on a daily basis is more difficult. When I recognize the Christ in me and in others, I accept Jesus. When I embrace the differences among us, help the less fortunate, listen with my heart to another's problem, or even smile at a stranger, I am accepting Jesus. When I turn away from these things, I deny the Christ in me and in others. With God's grace, I will continue to try to reach out and "seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God."

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
March 14, 2018
 
 
John 5:19-29
 

Jesus said to those charging hiim, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Fatherdoes, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes.The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.

 

"Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

 
 
 
 
 
 

I remember wanting to mimic my father in every way as a child. I wanted to wear "grown up" clothes and use the almost desk-sized calculator that helped him do his "grown up" work. And I also remember the times that he let me think I was in charge — from riding my bike with no training wheels (he had his hand protectively on the seat) to holding the steering wheel of the riding lawn mower (his hands were always there, resting under mine). So, how interesting it is in this passage that the role between father and son is both shared and reversed. That God (the Father) gives power to Jesus (the Son).

 

But this passage makes me wonder about all of the times past my childhood, into my youth and young adulthood when I considered myself "grown up" enough to go it alone — to use power on my own. The Twelve Steps used by recovery groups begin with, "We admitted we were powerless…" and quickly move to, "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," and then, "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God." Shorthand: I can't, you can, please help.

 

And so it goes. We think we're in charge, but God's hand is there, on the steering wheel and holding on to the seat of the bike. My question for today's reflection is this: Where might you need to let go of power and control to let the Father, Son, and let's add in the Holy Spirit, do their loving and guiding work? Give it a try — "I can't. You can. Please help."

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
 
 
John 5:1-18
 

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

 

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in HebrewBeth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

 

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, "It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat." But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take it up and walk?'" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working." For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

 
 
 
 
 
 

How often have we heard or read, "God is everywhere. God knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s love, grace, and forgiveness are limitless. God moves through our lives in many ways." I struggle to wrap my head around that concept. In this story, Jesus chooses one of many invalids and, without being asked, heals him. The now-healed man, who didn’t even recognize Jesus, goes on and only later identifies Jesus as the One who healed him.

 

God is in our lives all the time whether we recognize Him or not. Through prayer, reflection, worship, and interactions with others may we learn to be more aware and welcoming, if you will, of the many ways God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness embrace us all each and every day. Thank you, Lord!

 
 
 
 
 
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Lent Reflections
 
Monday, March 12, 2018
 
 
John 4:43-54
 

When the two days were over, Jesus went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.

 

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. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

If Doubting Thomas is infamous for his inability to believe without tangible proof, the official in this reading should be revered for his ability to trust solely on the word of God. Five words were all he needed to leave Jesus and return to his ailing son: "Go; your son will live."

 

What would it take for you? Being the husband of a pediatrician, I once made my wife and three of her peers examine my daughter when she bumped her head -- I had to be absolutely sure she was ok. God tells us his word is entirely sufficient and he shows us that throughout the Bible. Why do we have such trouble trusting in His word? What prevents us from trusting that the word of God is sufficient? This official's faith saved the life of his son.

 

But, reading the remainder of the passage, his reward was more than that. Not only did his faith save his son's life, but his faith brought his family to God. The passage states, "So he himself believed, along with his whole household." There may be a call to action there. Not only is faith required for our own salvation, but are we also called to trust in the Word to bring those around us to God? How can we better our faith to be an example for our community and help those around us believe?

 
 
 
 
 
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