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

Temptation and Confession

Luke 4:1-13

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (NRSV)
My name is Ken, and I’m a sinner.

I try really hard not to be, but it seems beyond my control.

One of the recent insights from Leadership Psychology is that when we spend all our time working on our weaknesses, we may get to adequate, but we will never excel at the things we are really meant for.

This doesn’t mean we yield to sin, throwing our hands up in defeat, nor like the ___ do we revel in our sin “so that grace may abound”.

It does mean that we have to be honest, with ourselves, God, one another, and even the world. Like I said, my name is Ken, and I’m a sinner.

I’d been looking forward to my Sabbatical, well, since I began to think about being a pastor. “One day, I’m going to be somewhere long enough to earn a Sabbatical.” I had very high expectations in those days. When I went to Seminary @ Brite Divinity School, I envisioned a monastic-like community where people truly knew, loved and challenged one another as followers of Jesus, studied theology, and went out into the world to build the kingdom of God. Unrealistic, but true. And I think my hopes for Sabbatical were similar – that I would have an amazing spiritual experience, everything would work out just as I wanted it to and it would be nothing but blessing.

Back to reality. I realized the week before Sabbatical began that I was definitely going to need a new car. I hate buying cars. I don’t hate many things, but that’s one. Anything that requires that size financial commitment is very intimidating to me. Plus, I have a deep aversion to the car buying process. NOW, I know, in my head, that car salesmen are good people, and I believe that the vast majority of them are honest – all the ones I know personally are.

And yet, I have deep within me an aversion to the process, and when I get into it, some very base instincts take over. I get VERY defensive, the moment I walk onto a car lot. My posture changes, and its as though I am just daring a salesman to come and try to talk to me. Go ahead, I dare you.

Again, I know they are good people simply trying to make a living. I’m not saying this is rational behavior, or something of which I’m proud. Remember what I said.

My name is Ken, and I’m a sinner.

So, I had to buy a car, and I spent the first several days of my Sabbatical – where I was supposed to be resting and praying and being all spiritual, doing something utterly material, and potentially materialistic. I was not in a good place. Just ask Laura. I was grumpy, short-tempered and deeply frustrated, which was spilling over to every area of my life. Things were not off to a good start.

In fact, the worst of it – I had a car to get rid of. I maybe hate that more than buying a car. I wasn’t getting nearly what I needed for my trade. So, on a whim, late on Tuesday, I thought to call a salesman I know who owns a small lot. Now understand, this is someone I deeply respect. I don’t know him well, but everything I know I like, and his friends are people I highly respect as well. I wasn’t really expecting the call to go anywhere, and he says, “Sure, bring it on over. I was just about to close up.”

Remember, I had been walking around for days with my shoulders hunched, hands in my pockets, with a HUGE attitude, basically not trusting anyone. Completely irrational, unfair, selfish, petty, just daring someone to try to take advantage of me. “It’s a game, and there can only be one winner”. I know that’s not true, but there’s something else, deeper than what I know, that still pursues that vision.

Well, as I said, all this started because I needed to get rid of the car because it needed lots of repairs. Specifically, I’d been told it needed four struts, and the cv joints – about $2400, with parts and labor. Over the phone, when I wasn’t really expecting to do business but was asking some advice, I’d vaguely said that it needed some work, and I think I mentioned the struts. I was stunned when he told me to bring it on in, and I kept telling myself, “You need to tell him the rest of it.”

But I didn’t. I was so tightly wound up into the lie that life for me in that moment was a zero-sum game, one winner and one looser, that I just remained quiet. I didn’t exactly lie. But I certainly wasn’t truthful. I didn’t fully disclose.

For me, buying stuff is so very fleshly. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love stuff – particularly cool gadgets. I’m also VERY cheap most of the time. And most importantly, there is something deep inside me that is convinced that we live in a dichotomous world – some things are spiritual and some things are material. One can read Paul that way, as he writes extensively about the battle between the Spirit and the Flesh. But what he is calling us to is not a rejection of the flesh, but an integration of Spirit and Flesh. A bringing together of the two in harmony so that the needs of both are honored and we experience God’s blessings on our lives.

But we, we separate the two all the time.

“Oh,” we say, “This doesn’t really matter. God isn’t interested in this part of my life – this is just material stuff, not spiritual. God only cares about the spiritual stuff.”

The truth is, Everything is spiritual.

What’s my point in all of this and where does the sermon title come in?

Forty Day Wilderness experiences are about transition from one way of being toward another. For example, here’s a quick list from Scripture:

• Noah – it rained for 40 days, and then he waited another 40 days before he opened the ark
• Moses – Forty years as Prince of Egypt
      Forty years as shepherd in Midian
      Forty Days on Mt Sinai
• Israel – Forty years wandering in the wilderness
      between Egypt and the Promised Land
      Between Slavery and Freedom
• Elijah – Forty days in a cave as his ministry was drawing to a close and he was to begin training Elisha to take his place.
• Jesus – Forty days of temptation in the wilderness
      Forty days between the resurrection and the ascension

Wilderness and 40 represent throughout scripture a transition from one way of begin to another – leaving behind a life that was not all bad to move toward a life into which God has called us.

Luke is clear that Jesus was tempted during those forty days. The three temptatio
ns named at the end of the story represent all of those that Jesus experienced. For jesus, the temptations grow from the things that he was loosing, giving up, in order to make this transition into a new way of being in the world.
1) Jesus had given up being a provider, not only for himself, but also for his mother and the rest of his family. So, his temptation was to provide for himself, instead of relying upon God to provide as he would need to do
2) Jesus had given up power and authority in his home and community. Jesus was tempted to take power just for power’s sake
3) Jesus had given up reputation and respect within his community Jesus was tempted to ‘become a celebrity’ by having angels rescue him.

I grew up feeling like I was on the edge or the outside most of the time. Feeling like I was at the mercy of other people’s decisions on whether and how to include me.

Guess what – two of my core temptations are to be defensive, and hold on to control. In the car selling experience, I fell into both of these.

What is temptation, anyway. A temptation is anything that pushes or pulls us toward sin. And SIN, I understand it to be anything that causes you to deny your true self as God’s child. Sin is not about rules, keeping or breaking them. The rules are there to help us understand what kinds of things will pull us away from our true self-in-God. Notice that, had Jesus yielded to any of those temptations, he would not have broken a single “Law” of God. But he clearly would have denied his true self.

Sin is also not some vague, abstract idea, some general character trait inherent in our nature. Sin is ALWAYS rooted in choice and expressed in movement – thought, word, or action. It does us little good to believe or agree that we are sinners. So what. What I need, and what you need, is to be honest with SOMEONES (God, Self, and at least one other) about the specifics of our sin. Which thoughts, words, and actions of yours have disrupted your life-in-God, the life you were born to live?

You and I have done, are doing, and will do things that disrupt our life-in-God. I’m not suggesting that we take turns standing up here bearing our souls. I am absolutely saying that you need to bear your soul to someone, and that we are to be a community that provides many safe ways and places to do that. If we can not be honest with one another about our struggles, then we will not be honest with ourselves or with God.

My name is Ken, and I am a sinner.