Happy Lent

Last night, the anchor on our local news said that many Christians around the world were celebrating Ash Wednesday. It struck me as an odd choice of words. Do we really “celebrate” Ash Wednesday? It’s a day of repentance – a day to remember that we were created from dust and to dust we will return – a day to be humble. Ash Wednesday kicks off the liturgical season of Lent, which is 40 days (plus Sundays) that Christians observe to prepare for Easter through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Sounds like a party to me!

“Don’t need nothin’ – but Contrition”
(sung to the tune of the Poison song, Nothin’ but a Good Time.)

Many Christians traditionally give something up for Lent; like carbonated beverages, chocolate, or desserts. Others add something to their routine; like an additional bible study, devotional, or prayer. Some attend special Ash Wednesday services where they may participate in a ritual of receiving the mark of ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance and mourning. All of this is an effort to get their hearts and minds focused on the upcoming Holy Day of Easter, or the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. (THAT I can understand referring to as a celebration!)

Here’s the thing though: All of this is great, as long as you remember that it’s a human device – a ritual designed and perpetuated by imperfect people. In the end, God isn’t going to ask if you observed Lent properly, or call you out on eating a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup after giving up chocolate for 40 days. That isn’t what’s important to Him.

What He ultimately wants from us is exactly what He has always wanted: for us to love Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls – and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And if observing Lent or Ash Wednesday in whatever way we think is necessary helps us to do that – then that’s exactly what we should do.

I went to Ash Wednesday service last night, received the mark of ashes, and prayed a little extra. I am doing a couple of extra devotionals for the time being. I will be reading and writing more intentionally for spiritual reasons. I might even deny myself something that I really like. And I encourage you to do those kinds of things too. But I mostly encourage you to (as they say around Christmas) remember the reason for the season.

Prayer for the beginning of Lent:

Lord, help us to use whatever rituals and devices that we choose to do nothing more than strengthen our commitment to you, our families, our churches, our communities, and our world. Help us to love you more, and to learn how to love your people.

Amen.

Lenten Prayer – Good Friday

Almight God,

we ask you to look with mercy on your family

for whom our Savior Jesus Christ was willing

to be betrayed,

to be given over to the hands of sinners,

and to suffer death on the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

(Reprinted from the UCC Book of Worship.)

 

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Thank you for allowing me to share with you these prayers throughout this season of Lent. Honestly, it was mostly for my benefit during my own Lenten journey. I feel like it helped me reconnect spiritually which I guess was the whole point of this exercise as I have been waning in that area of my life lately. So, for whatever its worth, Thanks!

Have a wonderful Easter and may God bless you and your families!

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Lenten Prayer – Maundy Thursday

lastsupper_.jpgThis is a wonderfully appropriate yet dark prayer for Maundy Thursday posted by Reverend Mommy in 2005, titled Tonight is a Night of Darkness. But Maundy or Holy Thursday really is a dark and melancholy day when put into the perspective of the Passion. And tomorrow is even darker. But it always gets darker before the dawn, doesn’t it?

Tonight is a night of darkness.
We gather it together like gauze and wrap our souls in it.
Tonight is a night of final things.
We gather together in the darkness and hold hands for one last meal.
Tonight is a night of water.
We gather together to cleanse and prepare.
Tonight is a night of tears.
We gather together and pray that the tears can wash away the betrayal yet
tonight is a night of betrayal.
We gather together to support one another, but one of us will destroy.

The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of the last meal
I will drink of it deeply and
remember all the good times; the teachings, the laughter, the love.
The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of new beginnings
I will drink of it deeply and
Hope that the new covenant will not hurt too much as it is carved on my heart.
The cup comes to me in the garden – the cup of my Father’s will
I will drink of it deeply after
I ask that it pass from me.
The cup comes to me as He is on the cross – the cup of bitterness
I will drink of it deeply even
If it comes in a form that is alien to me.
The cup comes to me tonight and I will drink.
I will drink deeply and enter into
Atonement with Him.

This is the dark night of the cup.
Dark is the wine, dark are the shadows, dark is my soul.
Together we enter into this night; we will leave separately in silence.
Can I be at one with Him? Will I stand watch with Him tonight?
Or will I too sleep at the gate?
Will I embrace and kiss only to betray?

Lenten Prayer – Week 6

Reading the BibleBack when I studied Lectio Divina, a monastic practice of literally praying the scriptures, I learned that there really are no limits to the variety of ways that God can speak to us. My pastor at the time, who led the group, said that his most basic definition of spirituality is simply “paying attention”. If we open our minds to the possibility of God’s voice & pay close attention to Him – basically shut up & listen – then He could penetrate those obstacles & boundaries that we have erected and speak to our very being.

I don’t necessarily practice Lectio anymore, but I do still try to apply many of the principles to my prayer life & study; listening intently for God’s word. And there’s not a more appropriate time to do just that than Lent.

Here is the scripture passage I am “praying” today:

Psalm 130 (the Message)

 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.

I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.

O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

I want nothing more than my life to be a prayer.

Amen.

Lenten Prayer – Week 5

Prayer to make poverty history

Christ our Lord,
your light shines into the shadows,
and shows us where the obstacles to change lie.
We know that often they are in our own hearts,
in the way we live,
and in our daily choices and actions.

We pray that we may accept the light of your love
as a challenge to change ourselves and our world.

We pray that, each day,
we make the choices and take the actions
that will bring an end to poverty and hunger,
and lead us all towards a fairer world.

Be with us, Lord,
as we face your challenge
and learn how to live our lives in love.

Amen

© Linda Jones

Lenten Prayer – Week 3

sunset3.jpgThis week’s prayer is taken from the Beliefnet Blog, The Divine Hours of Lent , a resource that I will continue to utilize for the remainder of the season. It is a reprinting of the “Litany of Penitence” from The Book of Common Prayer. It’s a beautiful prayer if not almost painful to recite. Really makes you think;

 

 

Most holy and merciful Father:
I confess to you and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.

I have not loved you with my whole heart, and mind, and strength. I have not loved my
neighbors as myself. I have not forgiven others, as I have been forgiven.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. I have not been true to the
mind of Christ. I have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, Lord.

I confess to you, Lord, all my past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and
impatience of my life.
I confess to you, Lord.

My self-indulgent appetites and ways, and my exploitation of other people,
I confess to you, Lord.

My anger at my own frustration, and my envy of those more fortunate than I,
I confess to you, Lord.

My intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and my dishonesty in daily life
and work,
I confess to you, Lord.

My negligence in prayer and worship, and my failure to commend the faith that is in me,
I confess to you, Lord.

Accept my repentance, Lord, for the wrongs that I have done: for my blindness to human
need and suffering, and my indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors, and for my
prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

For my waste and pollution of your creation, and for my lack of concern for those who
come after us,
Accept my repentance, Lord.

Restore me, good Lord, and let your anger depart from me.
Favorably hear me, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in me and all of your church the work of your salvation,
that I may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
bring me with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.