Lent 2012 Prayer and Study Guide

Flyer – Lent 2012 – Pryaer & Study Guide

Prayer & Study Guide
Lent 2012

Turn around &
Find new life
Repent, for the kingdom of God is here!

Special Days of Lent

Ash Wednesday – Jesus “sets his face toward Jerusalem – and so do we.

Wednesdays – 6:30pm meal and vespers

Holy Week

Palm Sunday –  Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem – we enter the sanctuary with palm branches

Maundy Thursday –Jesus’ Last Supper with the Apostles.

Good Friday – Jesus’ trial and crucifixion

Holy Saturday – A time of waiting in prayer – grieving Jesus’ death and waiting quietly for the resurrection

Easter Sunday – Jesus is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed!

Flyer – Lent 2012 – Pryaer & Study Guide

Lenten Sermon Series:

Christ living in me…

Use these verses and brief notes as prompts for your own reflection and prayer on the Sunday scripture. Take some time during the week to read and pray through the passage. Share with others the things you discover.

2/26 When its time for a turn-around

2 Chronicles 7:11-22 ~ 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

What are some signs in your life that it may be time to turn in another direction? How do you do that and what might help?

3/4 None are beyond hope

Ezekiel 18  ~ 30 Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!

When have you felt beyond hope? If not you, who do you know who has or does feel beyond hope, beyond the reach of God’s love and grace? Ezekiel suggests that no one is beyond God’s reach.

3/11 Without repentance, we can’t be ready  Matthew 4 ~  17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Lent is a season of preparation – opening ourselves to God’s work of making us new creatures in Christ and preparing us for Kingdom work. This always includes a new exploration of repentance as we seek to have God clear away any obstacles to the Holy Spirit’s work in and through us.

3/18 Sins of believers worse than those of the world?  Luke 13 ~ 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 

Jesus warns that the sins of believers will be judged more strictly than those of unbelievers. How does that affect where we focus our attention and energy?

3/25 Repentance reshapes life

Acts 2 ~ 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

As we change direction in our life through repentance, we also move into a time of formation or re-formation – i.e. our life changes shape, and is formed in new ways. We become like a lump of clay that is softened and then worked by the master potter. Repentance is essential in that process of softening heart and mind so that we are open to God’s creative work.

4/1 Everyone can change!

Acts 17 ~ 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

The message is not just for people of a particular race, ethnicity, religion or tradition. God’s offer of new life is for all people. How are we receiving it, and how are we living and sharing it with others?

4/5 Lord’s Supper –Thursday @ 7pm

We gather for a meal and reenact the Last Supper as we remember Jesus.

4/6 Good Friday – 7pm

We remember Jesus’ courage and suffering for our salvation.

4/6-8 –  7pm Friday-7am Sunday

Join in our 36 Hour prayer vigil.

4/8 He is Risen!

Matthew 28  ~ 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

Talk about a turn-around! Repentance often feels like a death, as we leave behind (or ‘die to’) old ways of thinking, speaking and acting. We may be fearful of going through this process, but Jesus’ resurrection assures us that new life awaits.

Praying with scripture

One of the ways we grow to be more like Jesus is by learning to pray with him – by praying with scripture. Jesus prayed from the scriptures his entire life, even to the cross. And even more deeply, since we claim with John that Jesus is the Word of God, and that in Scripture we also find the Word of God, that when we pray the scriptures, we are praying with Jesus. So, how do we do this?

1. Put yourself in a quiet place where you can concentrate on the words and your own thoughts without interruption.

2. Acknowledge to yourself and God your complete dependence.

3. Express to God your desire (to be more loving, to learn forgiveness, to know God’s leading, etc.)

4. Read the scripture, not to study it, but simply to hear it. Try reading it aloud; read it several times. Listen for the word, phrase or idea where your heart or mind settle and stay there without feeling the need to rush on. Only when you’ve finished ‘thinking that thought’ should you continue with your reading.

5. Imagine yourself in the scene if it is a narrative passage. If not then imagine yourself sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary, listening to him teach you. Either way, make note of what you feel and what you think.

6. Now have a conversation with God about what you’ve though and felt.

7. Finish by praying the Lord’s Prayer or another similar short prayer.

8. Briefly write in your journal about your prayer experience.

 (Based on the work of Ignatius of Loyola)

     For centuries Christians of many traditions have lived their lives of faith through the rhythm of the Church year, or Liturgical Calendar.  Almost all Christians at least acknowledge Christmas and Easter. Others add Advent, Holy Week, and Pentecost.

Lent, like Advent, is a time of preparation.  Forty days in length (not counting Sundays), Lent mirrors Israel’s 40 years of wandering from Bondage to Freedom, Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai, and Jesus’ 40 days of wilderness temptation between baptism and ministry.  We may experience several things during this time.  God is moving us from the bondage of prisons of our own making in sin and selfishness.  God is confirming the blessing of our baptism, “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)  God is also seeking to move us deeper into faithfulness, until we come to maturity, to the full stature of the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

As we approach the time of remembering Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection, we are forced to wrestle with our place in that story.  Would we have done differently than His disciples?  He asked them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” (Matthew 20:22) Are you able to make the sacrifice necessary to be my disciple?  Lent can be an opportunity to once again confront and answer that question.

Many believers have rightly made sacrifice a part of their Lenten observance. Consider giving up (fasting from) something that you particularly enjoy (it must be a real sacrifice to be significant).  Perhaps it will be TV, or candy, or caffeine. You may also choose to take on a new behavior, such as more regular prayer, bible study, or service to someone in need.  All of these are ways of focusing on Jesus’ person and work, and will draw you closer to Him

When God asks too much…

SERMON SCRIPTURE –   A reading from Genesis 22:

1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

So what do you do when you are headed toward the life you dreamed, and circumstances intervene, putting you on a different path?

What if you look around and realize that the life you are living is not the one of your dreams? How do you understand where God is in all of that?
Just because something happens in your life, does it automatically follow that “this is all part of God’s plan somehow.” I hear people say that, and I wonder. Was it God’s plan that Abraham and Sarah would suffer the grief of barrenness for 80 decades just so God could bless them with Isaac? Was it God’s plan that Moses would kill the Egyptian and have to flee to Midian for 40 years? Was it God’s plan that the Hebrews would refuse to enter the promised land with Joshua and Caleb, necessitating that generation to die in the wilderness?
Well, you get the idea.
We need to acknowledge the story of Joseph, who does finally say in Genesis 50:20 –
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.What we know from that is Israel’s understanding of how God used what happened to Joseph. It does not follow automatically that everything which happens has been orchestrated by God to accomplish some greater plan, regardless of how much pain and sorrow it may bring to one or to many. We must leave such a theology behind.
That said, sometimes scripture presents a faith understanding in which, like for Joseph, God does seem to ask a lot.  Let’s start with other Hebrew Old Testament stories.  In Genesis 12 we hear God ask Abraham and Sarah to leave their home, and family, and country, all that they know and love, to head out for an unrevealed period of time, over an unrevealed distance, to end up in an unrevealed place. We look in Exodus 3 and find God sending Moses back to Egypt in his old age to rescue the Hebrew slaves and spend the next 40 years leading them through the wilderness.
There are clearly circumstances, our faith suggests, when God does ask a great deal. Do we dare say that God asks too much? It certainly feels that way to us some times.
Look again at the story of the near sacrifice of Isaac. First we must recognize that this story comes from a very different place and time. The things about it that trouble us would not have troubled the people of Abraham’s day. We react violently and with revulsion to the idea killing one of our children, or even any child. Just think about the Casey Anthony trial, a young mother on trial, accused of killing her child. We are so offended by that on principle, “How could anyone do such a thing,” which is at least part of what makes the story so compelling to us. And there have even been times when, for some reason it seems to be mothers, have believed that God was calling them to kill their children as a way of protecting or saving them from some worse fate.
That’s not what is so troubling about this story – if we focus on a father a
lmost killing his child, we completely miss the point. Sacrificing children to the gods was common practice in Abraham’s day in the land of Canaan. That’s why generations later God must give to Moses laws prohibiting such practices, and why during the days of the prophets the people were judged for returning to the practices of their neighbors, which included ‘sending their sons through fire.’ (Deuteronomy 18:10-13; Ezekiel 20:31) No doubt, it would be painful to offer one’s offspring in such a way, but not morally reprehensible. That is not part of the story, even though it is central to our response to it. The morality of the bible stories, even that seemingly promoted by God and practiced by God’s people, can not always be ours.

This is a story about faith in the God who makes covenant with us. God had by this time thrice stated and reaffirmed divine commitment to the covenant with Abraham. And it has been made clear that Isaac is the means through which the covenant will be fulfilled. What God has asked Abraham to do is to release the means though which Abraham will receive fulfillment of God’s promise.
What promises do you think God has made to you? What promise of blessing, of grace, of forgiveness, of hope and healing and prosperity? What promise of salvation has God made to you, and how do you accept, receive and live it? What if God said, “I want you to sacrifice everything about how you practice and live out your faith. Give up all the things that make your spiritual life meaningful – the ways you experience my grace.”
Where else in scripture do we hear God asking much of us?
·        “Sell all that you have, give to the poor, take up the cross and follow me.” (Mk 10:21)
·        “Whoever loves family or friends or home or career more than me is not fit to follow me, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 10:36)
·        “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21:16)
·        Follow me. (Mt 4:19)
·        Get up and walk (Mt 9:6)
·        Be healed of your disease (Mk 5:34)
·        Love your enemies (Mt 5:43)
·        Go the second mile. (Mt 5:41)
·        Turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39)
·        Consider others as better than yourselves. (Phil 2:3)
·        Love God with everything – all your heart, mind, soul and strength. (Mt 22:37)
·        Leave your family and your home and your country and go to the place I will show you. (Gn 12:1)
·        Sacrifice your son on this mountain. (Gn 22:2)
·        Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rm 12:2)
·        Submit yourselves to one another as unto Christ. (Ep 5:21)

·        5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.  – Philippians 2

·        9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.   — Exodus 3
What do you do when God asks too much?
What do you do when the direction you thought God was sending you brings you to a dead end?
What do you do when the means of blessing and source of hope is threatened, or even taken away?
Praise – Remember that even Psalm 22 which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” continues, “you are the source of my praise before all believers and before them I will fulfill my promises to you.” (vs25)
Trust – Remember the counsel of Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Hope – Remember the promise from Paul in Romas 8:28 – God works for good in the midst of every circumstance for those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes.
Wait – Remember the prayer of Psalm 130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his words I put my hope.
Thank – Remember Paul’s counsel in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Pray – Remember Paul’s counsel in Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Think – Remember that your thoughts matter. In Philippians 4 Paul continues: 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.