Tag Archive: Lent


Lent 4.5 – Transportation

How did God’s people travel?  On their feet?  By boats?  On top of donkeys and camels?

How do we get around town today?  What are the costs associated with us buzzing from place to place?

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Lent 4.5 – Energy

How are we using our limited energy resources?  How can we use them more efficiently?

How are we using our personal energy?  Our church energy?  For what purpose?

Are we ultimately following, Christ, the light of the world?

Lent 4.5 – Water

How do we use God’s gift of water more faithfully?

How do we take serious Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 41:17?

Did Jesus really mean what he said in Matthew 10:42?

“The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”

– Isaiah 41:17

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

– Matthew 10:42

Marketers and advertisers frustrate me.    They are brilliant in their jobs.  Over and over they convince me to want (and buy) something I never knew I wanted.

We’re consumers.

Or maybe…

We’re being consumed.  We’re consumed by television commericals and newspapers ads.  We’re consumed by a culture that tells us we need and want the next, latest, greatest thing.  We’re consumed by a desire to keep pace in the house/car/toys race with neighbors.

But…

What would it be to be consumed by God?  By a love for God?  By a love for God’s people, our neighbors?

Lent 4.5 – Food

Have you thought about your food lately?  What you will eat?  When you will eat it?

Have you ever wondered where you food came from?  How it traveled to your plate?

It’s amazing how food connects us to the world.

I love what Thomas Merton wrote:  “From the moment you put a piece of bread in your mouth you are part of the world.  Who grew the wheat?  Who made the bread?  Where did it come from?  You are in a relationship with all who brought it to the table.  We are least separate and most in common when we eat and drink.”

 

Protecting God’s Creation.

Embracing Gospel Justice.

Nurturing Spiritual Fulfillment.


During Lent, our church has been participating in a wonderfully challenging program, Lent 4.5.  The  program is aimed at cultivating hearts and lifestyles of Christian simplicity.   Over the course of the Sundays in Lent, we have (and will) explore topics such as simplicity, consumption, food, water, energy, transportation, and giving and generosity.

We’re asking questions such as: How do we faithfully live in God’s creation?  How do we view and use our limited resources?  Are we being consumed by marketers and advertisers?

The congregation’s response have been beautifully mixed.  Some folks are really digging all the ways we’ve explored caring for creation.  Others aren’t quite on board…yet.  But God is moving in powerful ways…challenging the skeptics and motivating the passionate!

Over the next few days I’ll share some of the videos I’ve made that highlight the weekly themes.

Lent 4.5 is produced by the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  Genesis 1:2

As we journey through Lent it can feel like a season of despair or gloominess.  We begin on Ash Wednesday when we worship in a dimly lit sanctuary.  We place ashes on our forehead to remind us of our mortality.  Over the 40 days of Lent we practice more intimately prayer, fasting, and self-evaluation.  We give up something – not because it would be healthy or beneficial – but so that we might get closer to God.  Lent can feel like the dark days before the bright Easter morning.  And in many ways it is.

Genesis 1:2 reminds us of the primordial darkness, the darkness before the joy of God’s creation.  Yet, even then in the darkness the Spirit of God is present.  God hovers over the waters.  God is near the formless emptiness.  But out of that – out of nothing – God brings newness and creation.  God forms vibrant life out of the murkiness of the shadows.

During Lent allow God to hover over you.  Spend time in the darkness of self-reflection and self-denial.  God is there.  Ask God to bring life out of this season of darkness.  For on Easter morning, we will celebrate the Resurrection of the One who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

Prayer: O Eternal God, we find ourselves in the midst of a seemingly formless, empty, and dark season. Yet we know that you called all creation out of such an environment.  We glorify you for forming the formless, providing fulfillment for the empty, and revealing light to the darkness.  Heavenly God, remain present when we experience personal and communal emptiness or doubt.  As You hovered over the waters, we ask for your hovering love and grace in our lives.  We pray in Your name, Amen.

The Sacred Smell of Ashes

I’m not a huge fan on scented candles, incense, or Glade plug-ins.

When I occasionally went to the Catholic church with my girlfriend or extended family during high school, I remember the incense filling my nostrils…causing me to sneeze, cough, and choke.  Was this “ritual smell” really necessary? I wondered.   We didn’t do this at our Methodist church.

This past week, however, my sense of smell changed.

On Ash Wednesday, I used a small, metal bowl to prepare the ashes I intended to place upon the foreheads of the congregation.  After the service, I brought the bowl home, and place it on my desk (until I could find another home for it).  With the bowl sitting there, and a few ashes remaining, that’s when my sense of smell changed.

Since Wednesday, the aroma from the ashes has wafted throughout my room. While I’ve been praying, studying, reading for school, preparing a sermon…the smell of burnt ashes has lingered.  And there’s been something special about the loitering smell. There’s something Holy.  Something reminds me of church.  The smell reminds me of Ash Wednesday.  It reminds me of sacred incense that filled the halls of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (on my trip this summer). The aroma raising from the used ashes reminds me of Christ and the cross.  It’s as if I am breathing in the Spirit.  God’s presence seems oh-so-close.

Perhaps there’s always been something sacred and special about holy smells.  Too bad my nostrils are only now aware of the beauty.

Hands, SandOh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me*

In our busy –and at times overwhelming—lives, so many things grab for our attention, time, and energy.  For some, schoolwork seems never ending.  For others, work always consumes our best efforts.  Likewise, family and friends beg for our attention.  Financial situations, health concerns, and strenuous relationships all weigh down our hearts and minds.

In response, many of us try to “manage” all of these things.  We try to hold on to these aspects of our lives, hoping that maybe we can make, shape, and mold them to out liking.  We want so badly to be in control of everything.  We cling to different parts of our lives, trying to hold it all together.

Ultimately, however, what happens when we grip and hold things too tightly?  Eventually we crush them.  We squeeze the life out of our livelihood.

Over the next 40 days, let us make Lent a season for letting go of those things.  Let us take the time to loosen our grip on those things that burden our hearts.  Let us “let go” of feeling as if everything depends on us.  Let us “let go” of our un-Christ-like emotions.  Let us “let go” of our worries that hinder our relationship with Christ and others.

During Lent – Let go…and let God.

This Lenten season, let God claim our fears.  Let God have our worries and heartaches.  Let God be in control of our lives.  Let God, and the forgiveness He offers on the cross, be the hope we cling to.

My friends, “letting go” and “letting God” is possible because we know that God never lets go of us.

* Lyrics from “You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman

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