Lent 2020

Lenten Devotions

When Were You Hungry?
 
When we sit down for a meal we pause in prayerful thanks, acknowledging the Creator who provides from the earth. When we nourish our bodies we are aware of our need, mindfully receiving the blessings of daily bread. When we sit at table with others, we are aware that eating together is sacred time, marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
 
Hunger brings us together. It defines our basic human needs, unifying us in common longing,  devotion, and humanity. Wherever there is hunger, there is Jesus in our midst, calling us to join together in feeding the needs of others, whereby there is enough for everyone. 
 
Jesus promises abundance. Jesus promises to break the bread and multiply the loaves. Jesus promises that what is needed will be provided; daily bread, understanding, community, healing, and new life. 
 
As we enter into the season of Lent, we are reminded of our needs. We are not self-sufficient. We need God and each other. We are not independent. We are knit together in our common humanity. We are not alone. We have been given each other for companionship through life. 
Let us recognize the hunger in each other; being attentive with heart and eyes, listening well, and responding with the love of Jesus.
 
All will be fed!

Lent 1 | Week of March 1

 

read | Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written,
 'One does not live by bread alone,
 but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
 'He will command his angels concerning you,'
 and 'On their hands they will bear you up,
 so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
 'Worship the Lord your God,
 and serve only him.'"
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

reflect | “We do not live by bread alone, but daily bread is a good thing.” 

Jesus went into the wilderness following his baptism, long enough to suffer a deep, physical hunger. He understood the pain of fasting, and yet, the truth that we are more than physical beings. While food is essential to life, and we need to eat in healthy, regular patterns, we are also nourished by God’s Word, time in worship, prayerful relationship, and community blessing.
 
Let’s be generous, so that daily bread is enough for all. Let’s give boldly of the fruits entrusted to us, so that all will be fed. And, let’s be generous with our lives, as we feed needs that are beyond food. Reach out from your wallet, your heart, your eyes, and your soul, so that feeding others becomes a way of life. 
 

weekly invitation

Give boldly from a place of withholding.
 

prayer

God of abundance, you fill the earth with prosperity, bringing forth enough for all. Teach us again to limit our own consumption, living simply, so that others may simply live, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent 2 | Week of March 8

 

read | John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
 

reflect | “Hunger for Understanding”

Did you notice that Jesus is approached by Nicodemus “by night?” This would indicate that the Pharisee Nicodemus is doing his work in the shadows, and that he does not believe who Jesus is. And his final words - “How can these things be?” - seem to show that he still does not yet understand what Jesus is able to offer him. There are days—and even seasons of life—in which Nicodemus is one of the most relatable people in the Gospels! We, like our friend Nicodemus, seek understanding, but often have a hard time showing the more vulnerable bits of ourselves, like when we don’t understand or even believe what we see or hear in our daily lives.
 
Jesus has come among us precisely because we are doomed to take a nosedive every time we think we have it all figured out. And the good news is that Jesus doesn’t expect us to have a full understanding. Whether it’s a word of liberation or great frustration, we are beings who simply cannot comprehend the fullness of God. 
 
So, we take great comfort in the fact that God sent God’s only Son, so that even as we hunger for understanding, we trust in divine mystery and find hints of heaven on earth.
 

weekly invitation

Breathe through the discomfort of what you do not understand, remembering that as you breathe, it is the very Spirit of God within you.
 

prayer

God of all knowing, in baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. We seek to understand who you are and what your invitation is in our lives. Give us reassurance in our not knowing, and strengthen our faith in your promises, so that we might be a comforting presence to those who seek the peace of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lent 3 | Week of March 15

 

read | John 4:5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he? They left the city and were on their way to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."

reflect | “Hunger for Community”

The woman Jesus speaks to at the well suffers from two different, but similarly urgent kinds of needs – the same kinds we have - those of body, and those of soul. She thirsts, of course, for the practical necessity: refreshing water under the heat of a blazing sun. And yet, just as essential to her well-being, she hungers for something soulful: acceptance and connection – with God and others - amidst a community that has starved her of it. 
 
In the reality that Jesus creates, the excluded woman winds up bringing people together; the thirsty one becomes a spring of living water for others! Receiving the love that she so desperately needs, the woman abandons her water jar in the dust, and despite her own wounds and the barriers between them, she runs to tell the others. This love is more than enough! This love heals deep wounds, and plants hope anew! It satisfies the starving and sprouts new springs that never run dry!
 
This love gives us the courage to share not only Christ, but also ourselves with others… Restoring us to each other on the way.
 

weekly invitation

Give and receive connection and acceptance.
 

prayer

God of relationship, as Father, Son, and Spirit, you model community for us! We know that we need you, and we need one other. Embolden us to reach out for others! Restore us to healthy relationships and meaningful community, so that no one must starve for connection, alone. Through the power of your Son, “God-with-us,” Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Lent 4 | Week of March 22

 

read | John 9:1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet."
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

reflect | “Hunger for Healing”

They blamed him for his blindness, or if not him, then his parents. They passed him by every day, a common beggar of no regard. And yet, Jesus saw him. Jesus was always seeing those whom others did not see; the broken outcast on the side of the road, the lonely woman who came to the well in the heat of the day, the one crying out in the crowd for healing. 
 
Jesus knows our every weakness. Jesus knows our need for healing, even before we speak it. We are the broken, the beggar, the lonely one at the well, and the more aware we are of our dis-ease, the more likely we will be to see the suffering of others. 
 
All he knows is that once he was blind, and now he sees, and it was Jesus who made it so. Healing is ours in the one who bears us all!
 

weekly invitation

See someone you might normally overlook.
 

prayer

Healing God, we are in awe of your power. From our greatest weakness, you restore us to strength, deepening our faith in you, and growing our love for others, for indeed your power is made perfect in our weakness, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 
 

Lent 5 | Week of March 29

 

read | John 11:1-45


Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." But when Jesus heard it, he said, "This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." After saying this, he told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him." The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right." Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

reflect | “Hunger for New Life”

Jesus wept at the death of his friend. He had come some distance to see what had happened, confirmed by the sisters, Mary and Martha. Lazarus was dead. 
 
News of death stops us in our tracks. When we first hear of it, we are reminded of our own mortality and the precious nature of life. We remember times with the deceased; the sound of their voice, the smile on their face, the words of love shared. 
 
Jesus meets us at the tomb. Where the obstacles are the greatest, our God in Jesus Christ does the best work. When there seems to be no way, God finds a way, restoring us to life again, both in this life and the next. 
 
This love gives us the courage to share not only Christ, but also ourselves with others… Restoring us to each other on the way.
 

weekly invitation

Share a story of a time God saved you!
 

prayer

God of hope, God of new life, God of life forever, teach us again to trust in your promises, that Jesus has torn the curtain between this life and the next, preparing the way and bringing us home to you. Amen.