A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

We Journey with Jesus

The Lenten Season Continues and We Journey with Jesus

Here we are, well into the season of Lent, journeying with Jesus toward Jerusalem. His forty days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry, tempted by the Devil, victorious over three classic temptations, gives us the number of days for Lent (not counting Sundays). During Lent, we do things we normally don’t. We pause in our busy lives and look back on who we have been since the last time we took this journey. We reflect on our spiritual lives and practices. We come to understand what we must change, where we need to repent (turning our lives around and changing them to better follow Jesus’ example). We spend more time in prayer and we look toward sacrifices we can make. Lent is also a time to look for the ways we are not choosing the gospel or welcoming those whom Jesus calls us to embrace.

If we take this journey seriously and do it right, we turn away from the sins (all those behaviors, habits, etc. that draw us away from God’s purposes for our lives), self-centeredness, and self-hatred within us. Instead, we move toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, toward the meaningful life Jesus offers for all who agree to live it, individually and in community. In this way we prepare to meet Christ in his resurrected glory on Easter Sunday.

We pray for a change of heart toward greater love of God and neighbor, a non-judgmental and generous love, and all that accompanies that growing love. We pray this for ourselves, our church family and friends, and for our community.

It sounds like a whole lot to accomplish. Small steps are required, especially at the beginning.

The American Baptist Home Mission Societies suggest we can introduce children, and ourselves, to the disciplines of silence, sacrifice, and service in some innovative ways. They suggest setting aside television and phones for one minute a day to focus on breathing to get introduced to the idea of silence. Later we can graduate to twenty minutes of silence, simply sitting with the Lord, but that’s for later in the journey. Plant some seeds in starter pots and move them outdoors when the time comes to share in the flowers or fruit they produce. This is a practice of hope and community sharing. Take on a simpler diet for the remainder of this season and use the money saved to support others who are in need.

This would be a great time to give up an old but complete item in the closet a day, placing those items in a large bag. At the end of Lent, all those items go to a Christian thrift shop to help others.

Other things that might be given up for Lent include harsh words in favor of kind words, desire for gratitude, pessimism for hope, pressures for prayers, and words for silence. I am sure you can add to this list of things given up for Lent. Notice that none of these include chocolate.

On Wednesday evenings in March, continuing to Wednesday, April 6, we continue our Lenten Prayer Services live stream at 6:30 pm on Facebook and YouTube using Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved. These are roughly half hour opportunities for us to gather together, reflect, and pray during Lent. This is a short time to set aside life’s burdens and reflect on how well we are loved by God, as Jesus came to tell us and show us in so many ways. We truly are beloved of God.

On April 10, we celebrate our Palm Sunday service at 10:30 a.m. in the sanctuary and online. We will give Jesus the royal greeting so many of his disciples gave him outside of Jerusalem so long ago, celebrating in Scripture, sermon, and hymns the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem given our Savior.

Our Maundy Thursday service will be at 7:00 p.m. on April 14. This will be our Tenebrae Service of readings and the extinguishing of lights, leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. We encourage all to attend and if you have always wanted to participate or always do participate in the readings and wish to do so again, please let the pastor know.

Finally, we will celebrate Jesus’ victory over death and his reopening of the way between ourselves and God that humanity had willfully blocked with our sins. What a beautiful service that Easter celebration will be, on April 17, well worth our full attention and grateful worship. Invite your family and friends to join us, to share in our joy over what Jesus has done for us all.

May we all take up our crosses and follow Jesus faithfully, rediscovering — or discovering for the first time — just how much we are loved by God. For many years a friend and mentor of mine, Rev. Dr. Richard Rusbuldt has written an annual Lenten Devotions. He states, “God loves us — and God came!!!” If you wish to read Rev. Dr. Rusbuldt’s 2022 devotional (and I’m delighted he continues to write them), it may be found at Lenten Journal by Dr. Richard Rusbuldt

May God bless us all in this season of Lent and Easter.

~Pastor Jeff Snyder