Text: Luke 4:1-13
As we begin our series on Lent, we read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. During this time, Jesus is tested and tempted by Satan, and he relies on Scripture and his trust in God the Father to care for him. We learn from the temptation of Jesus that there is nothing (no item or idea) that is worth obtaining if we must give up who God has created us to be. Jesus refuses to sacrifice his calling from God for physical comfort, power, or security and safety. Instead, Jesus models sacrifice. As we prepare for Easter over the course of these next weeks, we participate in the sacrificial model that Jesus exemplified and modeled. Every good gift comes with a cost, and as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection and the promise of God’s victory over sin and death as the gift that it is to all of us, we ask ourselves what is it that we are willing to give up as we follow the example of Jesus in our everyday lives.
Text: Luke 13:31-35
Not only is the season of Lent a preparation for the resurrection of Jesus, it is also a reminder for us to examine our lives and to make the needed changes in order for us to become like Jesus. Lent asks us to repent and to change our hearts and lives. Lent asks us to give up the things that keep us from being like Christ. In this passage in Luke, Jesus challenges the religious leaders of his day to examine their intentions. Are they willing to see Jesus for who he is, even if it costs them something about how they understand their religion and faith to work? As we consider this story as religious people, we will ask ourselves what are the things in our own lives that may keep us from being like Jesus—how can we give those things up during these weeks of preparation?
Text: Luke 13:1-9
During the course of his ministry, we often hear that Jesus knew his hour was coming, or that it had arrived. This week, we encounter Jesus telling a parable with time as a main character in his story. The gardener asks for one more year in order that the fig tree might produce fruit. Jesus’ intention is to ask us whether we are prepared now to bear fruit? The hour is coming when Jesus will give his life on the cross. So too for us, the time is approaching and even now is here for us to bear fruit for the sake of the people in our community, our city, and our world.
Text: Luke 14:7-27
As we continue to prepare for Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus, we recognize that within each of us is a dangerous darkness and selfishness. We each desire to tell our story on our terms, and in such a way that we are benefited and blessed as a result. Often, this way of living is at the expense of others. In order for us to be benefited and blessed, someone else may have to suffer or to take a lower place than us. However, Jesus encourages us to intentionally choose someone else’s good over our own. It is in giving that we receive. It is in losing our lives that we find it. Jesus’ economy is upside down from our own. As we prepare for Easter and how Jesus gave his life for ours, we choose to participate in this upside down economy of giving and losing instead of taking and benefiting at the expense of someone else.
Text: John 12:1-8
In this passage, the aroma of Mary’s perfume as it is poured on Jesus’ feet fills the whole house. In other words, Mary’s action of giving, of sacrificing, is infectious and it spreads everywhere. Judas can’t stand the smell of this wastefulness, and yet Jesus defends Mary’s actions not as wasteful, but as a beautiful gift. As Easter comes nearer, we should understand that by participating in the “wastefulness” of Jesus’ giving of his life, we provide a gift that is sweet and that will fill up “the house.” Our actions, when they look the way that Jesus’ actions looked will have that sweet-smelling fragrance; it will be intoxicating and infectious too. We give of ourselves, following Jesus’ example, and for the sake of those who need to know about the good gift that Jesus gives to us through his life, death, and resurrection.
April 14th (Palm Sunday)
Text: Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46
As Jesus himself prepares for the crucifixion (and resurrection), he prays to God, “if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me.” No one ever said this way of following Jesus was easy. Even Jesus found it difficult. Yet, Jesus teaches us that the prayer doesn’t end there. Jesus continues in his prayer, “However—not what I want but what you want.” Jesus teaches us one of the most difficult lessons we will ever have to learn (and by the way, to face daily too): to give up our desires and to accept God’s. In the preparation for Easter, as we have observed the Lenten season, we prepare for Easter Sunday this week by understanding that God’s desire is that the love that God had in creation, the relationship that God had in perfect community with each person, creature, and even the created world itself be restored to harmony so that God might share the love that God has within God’s self with the created world—the entire created world. What will we do to help bring that harmony of relationship back to our hurting world and into our hurting lives?