Journey with Jesus–Lenten Resources

17 01 2008

Last year, Christine Sine developed a guide for Lent in response to the frustration of hearing friends say they would give up chocolate for Lent. There is much more to Lent that giving up a vice.

Posted below is the downloadable Lenten guide entitled “A Journey Into Wholeness.” Christine had hoped to update it for this year, but with conference planning, she has not had the time. It is still poignant and challenging, so please feel free to use it to get the most out of this important season of Lent.

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4th Lenten Weekly Challenge

26 03 2007

March 25th – 31st – Fifth Week of Lent

Journey into the Brokenness of God’s Family

“Americans by and large work together, shop together, and play together, but they do not worship together.  If we are at our core spiritual, then the fact that we seem unable and unwilling to relate to one another elbow-to-elbow in the pews of the local congregation reveals how fragile the integrity of the church is.”

It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our Christian life.  We are segregated by race, by age, by economic class, by denominational affiliation and by theological perspectives as we gravitate towards others who think and worship in the same way we do.   Often instead of living together in unity and love we are separated by prejudice and intolerance.

Yet the golden rule of Christianity, what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8) is “love your neighbor as you do yourself”.  At a recent conference Pakistani theologian Charles Amjad Ali reminded us that we are all prejudiced.  What changes in dialogue with others is the focus of our prejudice.  He then challenged us to consider “Can we be prejudiced towards justice, equality and respect or do we always live primarily with the prejudices of exclusion?”

God is much bigger than our culturally bound viewpoint.  All people are created in God’s image and worthy of being treated with respect and understanding.  I do not believe that we will fully understand who God is or appreciate the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the cross until we learn to see these events through the eyes of others who come from very different viewpoints than our own.

Scripture Luke 10: 25 – 37
The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
28″You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Accept the Challenge

Begin your weekly meeting by discussing your discipline from the past week.   What was the most challenging aspect of your week?  What new insights did you gain regarding your use of the earth’s resources?  In what ways have you been tempted to take short cuts over the week and rationalized your use of resources? What permanent changes are you considering making in your life in order to reduce your impact on the earth?

Now focus on your new discipline for the upcoming week.  Discuss your prejudices.  What ethnic and religious groups do you struggle to understand?  What theological viewpoints are you intolerant of?  What other prejudices separate you from God’s people.  Talk about ways to bridge to these different groups during this week.

Here are some suggestions that you might like to consider.  In each situation ask yourself:  What are the life experiences that have molded their view of faith?  Where do you have beliefs in common?  What are the differences?  What are the foundations for unity and respect?

  • Plan to get together with someone in your church who has a different theological perspective than your own.
  • Make this specifically a time to listen to their ideas and learn from their understanding of faith.
  • Visit a church of another denomination or worship style that you have never been a part of before.
  • Visit a church from a different ethnic background that you are unfamiliar with.
  • Visit the web and check out the theological discussions of indigenous peoples in country.




Reflections on the Mutunga Challenge

19 03 2007

By Grace Boettcher

 

Feb 21-28… This week I am trying out the $2 of food/day challenge. I made my list including ingredients for a soup, some cheese, beans, rice, and burritos. Bananas and carrots are my fruits and veggies. But now as I sit down in front of my very small burrito I cannot help but look for salsa in the fridge, the one that’s been kept there since the beginning of time. I’m not cheating, really, I’m allowing more room in the fridge…

I space out my food supply, making sure I have enough to last me till the end of the week. Unfortunately, my stomach is not very happy with this new diet and I usually make it to mid afternoon before I get the shakes, can’t focus on my work and my energy sinks to below sub level. The logical solution: indulge in a cup of coffee. By the time dinner rolls around I am convulsing and have nothing but broth and veggies to calm me down. I begin to wonder if some ice cream that has also been in the freezer since the beginning of time would cure my problem. Again, allowing for more room in the freezer. When I hit the hay I am weak and am not able to think straight, but I dread getting up in the morning to face the one fried egg and half a banana that will fill me up for the morning.

In the land of plenty, I should not be going to bed hungry. That is the logical conclusion my mind jumps to. I should indulge along with the richest of the rich. My frustration increases throughout the week because I realize how much I do indulge, in fact, I indulge all the time. My lifestyle is one of the most comfortable and indulging lifestyles there are compared to these people who have nothing, and not even the possibility of anything. I am also frustrated because I am so dependent on my indulgences. I do not know how to live without them, how to maneuver my way around them, how to live with less in a society that screams “you NEED this!”

The end of the week has rolled around and I unfortunately do not have the successful results of some. In fact, mine are quite opposite. In this defeat I go back to the source of the challenge: to identify with the poor. I am quite incapable of living like the poor, but I am capable of living in simplicity. I have learned that I can look beyond my immediate need and find Christ loving me because I am so poor in spirit. Maybe this week has helped prepare me for something greater.






3rd Lenten Weekly Challenge

12 03 2007

March 11th – 17th – Third Week of Lent

Journey into the Brokenness of Homelessness

“There are only two families in the world as my grandmother used to say: the haves and the have-nots.”

Homelessness or houselessness as it is now often called, is a huge and complex challenge throughout our world. UN-HABITAT’s 2005 report indicates that over one billion of the world’s six billion residents live in inadequate housing, mostly in the sprawling slums and squatter settlements in developing countries. They estimate that by the year 2050 this figure could rise to over 3 billion .
In the U.S. an estimated 4-5 million people go homeless each year. In Australia an estimated 100,000 are homeless and in Britain 100,000 households live in temporary accommodation and are therefore classified as homeless. In all our countries the numbers have increased in the last few years and the fastest growing segment of the homeless population is young women with children. Millions of others live without a safety net and constantly struggle with the knowledge that loss of a job or serious illness could quickly push them onto the streets.

Scripture Isaiah 65: 17 – 25 or Isaiah 53

17 “See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
20 “Never again will there be in it
infants who live but a few days,
or older people who do not live out their years;
those who die at a hundred
will be thought mere youths;
those who fail to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain, or will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
Accept the Challenge

Begin your weekly meeting by discussing your participation in the $2 challenge. In what ways have you been tempted to take short cuts over the week to avoid your restricted diet? What long term impact could it have on your eating habits?

Now try to put yourself in the place of people who are homeless. Sit for a few moments and look around your house. Focus on the things you value most – your family photos, the tablecloth lovingly embroidered by your grandmother, the gifts from your mother and father. How would you feel if these were suddenly lost? Even worse how would you feel if everything else was stripped away too – including your job and your life savings?

Now imagine that you and your family have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to find safety. You are crowded into a makeshift refugee camp with thousands of others. During the trip your passport and money were stolen. Now you have heard rumors that there is only enough food and water for a small portion of the people in the camp. How would you feel? How would you react? How would you want others to react to you?

Plan some ways to interact with homeless people and refugees each day during the next week. Here are some possible ways to accomplish this:

  • Find out where the homeless people in your neighbourhood congregate. Walk around the area with a friend. Talk to at least one homeless person you encounter and ask them about their life. If possible find out why they became homeless.
  • Buy a paper from a homeless person when you go shopping.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter for an evening.
  • Take a homeless person out for a cup of coffee or for lunch.
  • Talk to people who have been refugees. Ask them about their experiences of homelessness.
  • Visit a tent city if there is one in your area.




The Mutunga Challenge

2 03 2007

Accepting the Mutunga Challenge
The Mutunga $2 challenge has really captured people’s imagination and many around the planet are planning to join us in restricting their food budget to $2/ day for a week. A couple of days ago I was talking to Donna Carter in Calgary Canada about it. She shared with me a conversation she had with Ephraim Lindor, a pastor in Haiti. He told her that in Haiti most people live on $1 per day. “Is that enough to live on?” she asked. “No!” he responded, “but it is enough not to die.”

For many in our world living on $2 per day is not a choice but a necessity. We are grateful therefore at how many have accepted this challenge to identify with sisters and brothers who have so little. People from around the world are grappling with how to cut their food budget for a week in order to identify with and help those less fortunate than us. Here are some suggestions on how to proceed:

1.Make sure that everyone in the family participates in the negotiations revolving around how to spend your week’s budget.
2.Discuss the sacrifices you will need to make and reflect on how to construct a suitable menu. Obviously we will all need to give up expensive food options like dining out, buying prepared and packaged meals and lattes. Fruit juice, milk and other beverages may need to be restricted, but then we all need to drink more water anyway. We may also need to give up time that we usually use for other activities in order to have time to cook meals from scratch.
3.Construct a menu and develop a budget for the whole week before you go shopping.
4.Estimate the value of food you already have in your food cupboard that you plan to use during the week as and subtract that from your week’s budget. The only food that does not need to be included in your budget is fruit and vegetables that you have grown yourself. One of the reasons that rural poverty is often not as devastating nutritionally as urban poverty is because people are able to grow some of their own food to supplement what they need to buy.

Guidelines for Developing a Menu and Shopping List
Here are a few guidelines that will help you plan your menu.

1.Plan a budget based on 25 – 40c each for breakfast, 50 – 75c for lunch and snacks, $1 each for dinner.

2.Prepared meals and processed food is always more expensive than basic staples like rice, potatoes, pasta, legumes and beans. Bulk staples of rice, barley, oats and bulghar wheat are less expensive than packaged versions – find the bulk food section in your local supermarket or visit Whole Foods or an equivalent health food store.

3.Whole grains provide more protein & nutritional value than processed grains. Discover varieties you have never used before like quinoa, couscous & bulghar wheat.

4.Fruit and vegetables are usually cheapest at your local fruit market or Chinese grocery.

5.Meat is probably one of the most expensive food items. Eating vegetarian meals or meals with very little meat will decrease your food budget considerably.

6.Eating fruit and vegetables that are in season and grown locally will be cheaper than those that are out of season or grown in distant places.

7.Leave space in your food budget for a special treat (especially if you have young children). You may like to make some inexpensive cookies at the beginning of the week.

Suggested shopping guide

For 2 adults
For 2 adults & 2 kids
For 2 adults & 3 kids
Oats for oatmeal (porridge)
$1.00
$1.50
$2.00
Rice
$0.50
$1.00
$1.50
Potatoes
$1.00
$2.00
$1.50
Rice noodles
$0 50
$1.00
$1.00
Pasta
$0.50
$1.00
$1.00
Wheat berries
$0.50
$1.00
$1.50
Onions
$1.00
$1.50
$2.00
Carrots
$1.00
$2.00
$2.00
Cabbage
$0.50
$0.50
$1.00
Fruit & salad vegetables
$4.00
$8.00
$10.00
Cheese
$2.00
$4.00
$5.00
Peanut butter
$0.50
$1.00
$2.00
Flour
$1.00
$2.00
$3.00
Chicken
$2.50
$5.00
$7.00
Canned tuna
$0.50
$1.00
$1.50
Bread
$2.00
$3.00
$5.00
Milk
$1.00
$2.00
$2.00
Eggs
$1.00
$2.00
$2.00
Black or kidney beans
$0.50
$1.00
$2.00
Tortillas
$0.50
$1.00
$1.50
Mushrooms
$1.00
$2.00
$3.00
Cookies

$3.00
$4.00
Pasta sauce

$2.00
$4.00
Sour cream
$0.50
$1.00
$3.00
Nuts
$1.00
$1.50
$2.00
Tea or coffee
$1.00
$1.00
$1.50
Oil
$2.00
$2.50
$3.00
Butter or margarine
$1.00
$2.00
$2.00
Salsa
$0.50
$1.00
$1.50

Total
$29.00
$58.00
$75.50

Suggestions for Weekly Menu

Breakfast – Oatmeal or homemade muffins
Lunch – Peanut butter or vegemite sandwiches
– Vegetable or chicken noodle soup made from scratch (can be heated in microwave at work)
Dinner – Phad Thai made with inexpensive rice noodles
– Baked potatoes with cheese & seasonal vegetables
– Pasta with inexpensive tomato based pasta sauce (or make your own)
– Bean burritos with black beans and cheese, salsa, sour cream & green onions. (olives & guacamole are good but may exceed your food budget)
– Fish cakes with rice
– Moroccan couscous with vegetables & harissa sauce
– Spanish rice & beans with fresh salad

Suggested Recipes

Fish Cakes (serves 4)
1 tin of tuna 7 medium potatoes mashed
Breadcrumbs (made from bread supply for the week)
2 chopped onions 2 eggs

Mash it all together – make into small patties then roll again in breadcrumbs and cook in olive oil until golden brown both sides. Serve with fresh salad. If you grow your own herbs add these too.
Cost Total Recipe = $3.50 Per serving = $0.85

Autumn Garden Soup – Vegetarian (15 servings)
1 c Dried Beans, Use Scarlet Runners From Garden 1 c Wheat Berries,
1 c Onion, Chopped 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
2 T Olive Oil 1 T Sage, Fresh & Chopped
1 lb Tomatoes, Chopped or 14 Oz Can Diced 1 T Rosemary, Fresh & Chopped
1 c Carrot, Peeled & Cut In 1/2″-Chunks 1 lb Cabbage Coarsely Chopped
1/2 lb Green Beans, Trimmed & Cut in 1/2 Lengths 1/4 c Parsley, Chopped
1 t Salt & Ground Pepper to taste 6 c Vegetable Broth
1 c Winter Squash, Chopped 1 c Mushrooms, Chopped

Soak beans and wheat berries in separate bowls overnight. Drain and set aside. Cook dried beans until just tender (45 min – 1 hour). In a large pot or Dutch oven heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, and cook stirring until soft. Add garlic, sage and rosemary. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved wheat berries, tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a simmer cover and simmer until wheat berries are al dente, (1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add cabbage, squash, mushrooms, carrots, green beans and reserved dried beans with their liquid. Cover and simmer until all vegetables are tender. (15 -20 minutes) Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper. [Soup can be adapted to take advantage of whatever vegetables are most plentiful]
Cost Total Recipe = $9.55 Cost Per Serving = $0.64

Phad Thai (5 Servings)
1 lb med. rice noodles 2 T Vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten 2 c fresh bean sprouts
1 bunch green onions, chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 t fish sauce 1/2 c dry roasted peanuts, Chopped
Parsley or cilantro
Cooked shrimp (optional & not included in cost estimate)

Bring water to a boil. Add noodles and turn off water. Let sit 3 minutes; drain and set aside. Heat a little vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan. Pour in beaten eggs and cook until firm. Don’t stir. Remove from pan and cut in thin strips. Set aside.

Saute garlic, scallions and bean sprouts in a little vegetable oil. Add fish and oyster sauces and mix well. Add drained noodles and mix again. Add strips of egg and mix. Put on a serving plate and garnish with chopped peanuts, parsley or cilantro and, if desired, cooked shrimp.
Cost Total Recipe = $3.50 Cost Per Serving = $0.70
Pea & Ham Soup (15 servings)
Soak 500g Borlotti Beans (or any other split peas/beans that are cheap) overnight. Saute 1 clove garlic, herbs, 1 onion, 2 stalks celery, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin in a little margarine. Add 375g frozen peas, ham hock, 5 medium diced potatoes, beans, 6 carrots & corn from 1 corn cob and enough water to make a thick soup. Simmer until vegetable are soft and meat falls away from bones.
Cost Total Recipe = $7.50 Cost per Serving = $0.50

Vegan Moroccan Couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 onion, diced
3 cups vegetable broth 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 turnips, peeled and julienned 1 sweet potato, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned 1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup garbanzo beans, soaked overnight & cooked
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 1 pinch curry powder
2 cups uncooked couscous

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; saute onion until golden. Pour in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in carrots, turnips and sweet potato. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add zucchini and red bell pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in garbanzo beans, tomato sauce, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron and curry powder. Simmer until heated through. Meanwhile, bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 to 7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve with vegetables on top.
Cost Total recipe = $8.52 Cost per Serving = $1.07

Carrot Cake
Whisk together 2 eggs, ½ cup sugar,½ cup oil. Sift 1 cup whole wheat flour,½ tspn bicarb soda, 1 tspn mixed spice. Mix in 1½ cups grated carrot(165g) with wet and dry ingredients. Mix well. Bake in greased loaf tin in moderate oven for 50min.
Cost Total Recipe = $2.00 Cost per Serving = $0.35





2nd Lenten Weekly Challenge

27 02 2007

February 25th – March 3rd – First Week of Lent

 

Journey into the Brokenness of Our Inner Selves

At the heart of the biblical story is not the sinfulness of humankind but the love and forgiveness of God. As we journey toward the cross we are not meant to wallow in our sin even though we desperately need to acknowledge it and seek repentance and forgiveness. The reason we focus on our brokenness and need for repentance is so that we can be healed and enabled to become all that God intends us to be.

During this first week of Lent as we walk with Jesus towards the Cross we are reminded that to follow him we must be willing to enter into the fullness of the Easter story. We don’t just follow a resurrected Christ who through the sacrifice of his life poured out the love of God so that we might find the wonder of eternal life. We also follow a crucified Christ who willingly entered the pain and suffering of our world and became one of us. What we often forget as we read the Easter story is that Christ’s sacrifice was not just so that we might be set free from our own sin and brokenness. Christ lived and died as an example of how we too should live.

Our walk with Jesus to the cross begins with an invitation to lay down all the inner burdens of self-centeredness, indifference and greed that distract us from a wholehearted commitment to God. It is to the cross we come for forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. Only then can we experience the full joy of Easter morning and be resurrected into the new life that God intends for us, – a life in which all that we do and all that we commit our time and our resources to is truly governed by our love for God and our love for neighbours around the world.

Scripture – Psalm 51: 10 – 16

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguilt, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

Accept the Challenge

“Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10)

Read Ps 51 in unison together and then spend time in silence meditating on its implications for your life
Get each person to look into a mirror and using a felt tip marker or soap, write or draw onto your reflection words and symbols that represent your anxieties and fears. When you are ready spray glass cleaner onto the mirror and wipe it clean.
Pray together for God’s cleansing in your hearts

Reflect on those things in your life that focus you on yourself rather than on God. Discuss the following questions:
What is one thing you struggle with that distracts you from a whole hearted commitment to Christ? Write down your areas of struggle on a piece of paper.
How could you use this first week of Lent to initiate a new spiritual discipline that would bring reconciliation and healing in your place of struggle? Some possibilities you might like to consider are:
Free up an extra fifteen minutes each day to pray and read the scripture
Memorize one new scripture verse each day
Take time each day to read a chapter from a book on spiritual disciplines such as Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline
What is one way that you could help each other maintain this discipline?





1st Lenten Weekly Challenge

26 02 2007

Journeying With Jesus Toward the Cross.

The idea of the journey is fundamental to the Christian faith. From the time that God called Abraham and Sarah and commanded them to “Leave your country and your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Gen 12:1) people of faith have journeyed both physically and spiritually toward a deeper understanding of God. In the Middle Ages Christians were encouraged to make pilgrimages to special holy places called shrines. It was believed that if you prayed at these shrines you might be forgiven for your sins and have more chance of going to heaven. Others went to shrines hoping to be cured from an illness they were suffering from.
If you were rich enough, too busy or just plain lazy you could go on pilgrimage by proxy, paying some other person to endure the hardships for you. Amazingly this service is still available today. For anyone who has vowed to make the pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal which is famous for religious visions but can’t fulfill their promise, help is at hand — rent-a-pilgrim. For about $2,500 Pilgrim Gil will make the journey in your place — and send you a certificate stamped along the way to prove he walked your every step.1

Journeying or peregrinatio from which we get the English word pilgrimage was also basic to Celtic Christianity. Believers often left home and loved ones with no specific physical destination in mind but rather on an inner journey to find Christ. They believed their home was not this world, but the heavenly Jerusalem, toward which all of life moves us. They saw themselves as “guests of the world”. Every experience encountered and every activity undertaken on the way was an opportunity to meet or to represent Christ.

A Journey Into Wholeness
At the center of God’s vision for the future is a wonderful dream of a world in which all of creation is restored to the wholeness and harmony of relationships that were broken through the disruption of the Fall. God looks forward to the day when all people are restored physically, emotionally and spiritually. God’s dream is that we live and work together in harmony and mutual trust, caring for the earth and relating personally to our loving Creator.
To be a disciple of Christ means to grab hold of this vision and make it the destination for our life journey. We deliberately choose to lay down our own self-centered lives and consciously live each moment journeying towards God’s presence and towards a life that is fully integrated with God’s will for restoration and wholeness. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in us breaking down the barriers that distort our ability to lead a life that is fully integrated with God’s purposes.
According to Henri Nouwen, “Discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God – a time and place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”2 This is the kind of discipline we all need in order to mature into the people God wants us to be.

A Journey into Lent
Lent, those days before Easter that commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent out in the wilderness before his ministry began, invites us to contemplate our own Christian journey and consider the disciplines we need to become whole. How can we deepen our relationship to God as we meet with and represent Christ through our words and action?
Many of us are unfamiliar with the practice of Lent though its observance is gaining popularity in all kinds of churches from Baptist to Pentecostal. Those of us who do acknowledge it tend to think of Lent as a time to give up some non essential food item like chocolate or activities such as watching TV. Some of us fast for a day or two and get a warm glow of satisfaction because of our sacrifice but these observances make little if any difference to the ongoing journey of our lives.
Lent is not really about sacrifice or deprivation. In the early church this was a time of preparation for those about to be baptized. Today it is more often regarded as a season of soul searching and repentance for all Christians as a preparation for the joy and celebration of Easter. Unfortunately for many of us our soul searching is as perfunctory as our sacrifices. We spend a little more time reading the bible and in prayer. Some of us spend a few hours working with a local mission we are concerned about but otherwise our lives are unchanged and after Easter there is very little to show for our commitment.
During Lent this year we would like to invite you to join us on a journey with Jesus towards the Cross, a journey that we hope will change our lives forever. We want to challenge you to set aside time to deepen your relationship with God by entering the brokenness of our world. Allow yourself to encounter Christ as you reflect on all the aspects of your life and of our world that distort your ability to live as effective representatives of God and God’s kingdom.
When humankind was separated from God at the Fall it was not just our relationship to God that was distorted and broken. Our relationship to each other, our stewardship of the earth and even our inner being, were all broken or distorted by sin. Our journey toward the Cross should encourage us to confront all these areas of brokenness and lead us to a place of healing and wholeness.

Enter the Weekly Challenge

Over the six weeks of Lent as we journey with Christ toward the cross we want to examine these areas of brokenness and explore how we can move closer to God and more effectively be God’s hands of healing and wholeness. Our journey will begin with an exploration of the barriers within ourselves that resist God’s will. Selfishness, fear, feelings of abandonment and our inability to trust that God really loves us all separate us from God and the life that God wants for us.
In the second and third weeks we will confront some of the barriers that separate us from other human beings. Lack of forgiveness, the desire to control, greed, indifference to the suffering of others all distort our relationships to those with whom we share this planet.

In the fourth week we will explore barriers that separate us from God’s creation. Lack of proper stewardship, over-consumption and a lack of respect for what God has made all destroy our relationship to God’s creation.

In the fifth week of Lent we will confront some of the barriers that isolate us from other parts of God’s family because of lack of unity between believers with different theological perspectives. Independence, the desire to “do it my way” and lack of unity with fellow believer are all barriers to a mature relationship with God. Holy week, the last week of Lent will focus on Jesus own walk toward the cross and the brokenness he willing endured to set us free.
It is not surprising that in a culture like ours that craves comfort and ease, few people practice fasting and self sacrifice during Lent anymore. Deliberately walking with Christ towards the Cross is very costly. In fact it demands our whole life. But we pray that this year will be different. As we journey this year towards the Cross may we walk towards a deeper commitment to God. In the words of the apostle Paul “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

Accept the Challenge
Discipline is a word that hearkens back to our childhood, or to the machinations of those in our lives who want us to conform to certain behaviors or to the needed requirement for developing ‘character.’ Actually, the word is grounded in the word disciple, which means a ‘learner.’ Discipline can become for us a way to encounter new learnings about ourselves and to actively engage in extracting from those learnings insights that can deepen our understanding of life and spirit. Lent invites us to re-enter the school of life and be discipled in the endless possibilities for growth.3
This Lenten guide is designed to take you each week on a journey into a different aspect of the brokenness of God’s world so that you can become an instrument of God’s healing and restoration. As we prepare for this Lenten season together there are several disciplines you may want to consider that will facilitate your journey.

  • This journey is not meant to be travelled alone – plan to begin each week with a group meeting with a spouse or friends. Look at your schedule for the six weeks of Lent. What do you need to give up over this period in order to make meetings possible? These times together are an important part of your journey. Plan a simple (soup & bread) meal as part of your community discipline. Give a different person responsibility for the meal each week. Allow time to discuss your struggles and plan your week’s activities. Send time praying for each other and also for those who are less fortunate in our world.
  • Set aside time each day for solitary reflection. Buy a new journal specifically to reflect on your Lenten journey. Each day read through the scripture designated for the week. Which verse stands out for you? Read this verse aloud several times. Then spend time in quiet reflection. What is God saying to you through this verse? Write down any reflections, thoughts, & prayers that come out of your time.
  • Purchase a book of Lenten reflections to read each day as part of your discipline. One of my favourites is Lent and Easter: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen, compiled by Judy Bauer. Alternatively you may like to read a book such as Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan with your spouse or a friend.
  • Find an Ash Wednesday service to attend on February 21st as the first act of your Lenten journey. Lent for Western Christians begins with Ash Wednesday, a day for penitence to clean the soul before the Lent fast. Roman Catholic, Anglican, and some other churches hold special services at which worshippers are marked with ashes as a symbol of death, and sorrow for sin. In Ash Wednesday services churchgoers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes as a sign of penitence and mortality. The minister or priest marks each worshipper on the forehead, and says “remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return”, or a similar phrase based on God’s sentence on Adam in Genesis 3:19. At some churches worshippers leave with the mark still on their forehead so that they carry the sign of the cross out into the world. At others the service ends with the ashes being washed off as a sign that the participants have been cleansed of their sins.
  • Take time to visit our blog each week www.mustardseedjourney.wordpress.com Check out the new liturgies and resources that have been added. Share your own reflections, photos, comments and struggles.