Pathways through Lent

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Psalm 118:1–2,14–24 Acts 10:34–43 or Isaiah 25:6–9 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 or Acts 10:34–43 John 20:1–18 or Mark 16:1–8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

It often takes time, life experience, and the death of someone you know to squarely confront the often-uncomfortable question of what lies beyond this life. In many cases, we reach this point involuntarily. Some of us lose loved ones at young ages, while others of us are well into adulthood before death touches our lives in an intimate way.

The Easter promise of resurrection is at the core of Christianity. This fundamental belief requires faith. By having faith in this salvation, we see that Christ’s teaching transcends being a guide for moral living and becomes an opportunity for realizing eternal life.

Thank God our story as humans doesn’t end with death! Today we are reminded of the good news. Jesus’ resurrection adds another chapter to our book. The author of our salvation has not forsaken us. This good news should give every human hope, integrity, and purpose of life.

Christ teaches us that it is not our position to judge. Rather, it is our job to share the hope and love of Christ through our interactions with friends, enemies, and strangers alike. In the microcosm of our daily lives, we can bring dignity and hope to those around us. So, go forth into the world, rejoicing that today death is conquered. Go forth to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!

–Sarah Tuke

(Click for a video from King’s College of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”)

Pathways through Lent

Alleyways

Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16 Job 14:1–14 or Lamentations 3:1–9, 19–24 1 Peter 4:1–8 Matthew 27:57–66 or John 19:38–42

The Christmas after my husband and I moved to D.C., my mother, an accomplished artist, surprised us with an incredible painting. When she and my father had visited over the previous summer, she had taken all kinds of photographs of our 1908 Victorian row house. We had been eager to share it with them—with its rows of turrets, tree boxes, and beautiful façade—and when she presented us with a painting, we knew what its subject had to be.

So as we removed its paper covering, we were astonished to find the view of the alley from our back deck.

Really? That’s what she chose to paint?

But it is beautiful. It’s the view that the residents don’t lead with, the backs of the houses that bear little resemblance to the fronts. It’s another look into the lives of the people living within.

And it’s a reminder that beauty lies in unexpected places. It’s in people, places, and things that would not necessarily grace the pages of a glossy magazine but warrant a second look from a different angle.

During this season of Lent, I am reminded that, if we keep our hearts open, God reveals to us the beauty in our everyday lives. My mother captured that—and more—in her gift. Finding that beauty, and giving grace to others, helps us to see the true art of possibility.

–Betsy Daise

 

Pathways through Lent

In the Pursuit of Hope

Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13–53:12 Hebrews 10:16–25 or Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9 John 18:1–19:42

Good Friday: the eternal metaphor for the bleakest of times, when life sits us right smack down in the midst of a cold and piercing sorrow, way beyond the comfort of tears.

I ponder often the plight of my ancestors who were held as chattel in this country, yet seemingly and paradoxically adopted so readily the Christian religion of their enslavers. Those stern lessons were simple. As property, scripture instructed them to obey their masters, and they were not to steal.

Yet no such iron-clad commands could contain the miracle that is the resilient human spirit through which they found in Christianity a rock-solid promise of liberation and hope. They did not need courses in theology to know the meaning of the Exodus narrative. In it they found hope that if God delivered and redeemed and freed the Israelites, and let them cross the Red Sea on dry land, and sent His Son to be the latter-day Moses—to renew the message of deliverance, redemption, and comfort—then God would, indeed, deliver them.

There were inevitably many Good Fridays, but in order to survive there must have been faith that someday light would pierce their gloom. The hope for light—for a clearing, for deliverance—was there to imagine, to believe in. Just believe. Have faith.

The human spirit cannot exist in a world of Good Fridays. There cannot just be a bleak landscape. The horizon must show that the sun will rise, that resurrection is coming, that there will be an Easter day.

–Riley Temple

Pathways through Lent

Giving Up Everything

Psalm 116:1, 10–17 Exodus 12:1–14 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 John 13:1–17, 31b–35

It is said it takes three weeks to make a change in your life and break a habit. In my case, it took 45 years.

During a very difficult time for me some years ago, I was forced to consider my life. It was a time of soul-searching, repentance, reflection, and taking stock. I redirected my life, acknowledged my sins and weaknesses, and built on my personal strengths. Fittingly, this time coincided with Lent.

Did I give up anything for Lent that year? I gave up everything I had.

And I started fresh. It was only then that I understood that sacrifice and reflection will leave you feeling cleansed, allowing for a new personal beginning and rebirth.

I have been taught that Christ faced temptation, endured the harsh words of others, saved those who were discarded, and ultimately paid for his actions through crucifixion. Nothing I could face compares to His commitment and sacrifice, and I can only ask for His grace and His hand to steady me through the difficulties.

In the end it was grace, dignity, and forgiveness—for myself and for others— that helped me through my struggles and made me an honest, loving, happier, and contented soul. It made me a better person for my children and those I love and cherish.

And that is worth letting go and giving up everything.

–Brandon A. Montgomery

Pathways through Lent

Love at All Times

Psalm 70 Isaiah 50:4–9a Hebrews 12:1–3 John 13:21–32

On this Wednesday of Holy Week, we recall the betrayal of Jesus by his friend Judas. Externally, Judas appeared to be the perfect friend to Jesus. He treated Jesus with all due respect and devotion, and his actions had the appearance of friendship. Yet they were not sincere, as Judas intended to—and did—betray his friend.

The same night Jesus revealed Judas’ betrayal, He gave the world a beautiful commandment: “Love one another.” As Judas was betraying Jesus, Jesus was offering the cure: love, the antithesis of Judas’ act of betrayal.

Jesus said his followers would be known to the world by their love. In Christian thought, the Greek word agape describes this love we should have for others. This love does not respond to the antecedent value of a person but instead unselfishly cares for the beloved friend. This is the love that God has for all persons and that we, as followers of Christ, must show our fellow man.

It is easy to pass judgment on Judas, but his story calls us to examine ourselves. Evaluate if you are being a good friend to others. Examine where you may fail to follow Jesus’ charge to love one another, and vow to improve. Try to avoid feigning intimacy like Judas did. As you reflect upon the Gospel reading, resolve that you will become a better friend to someone in your life. And remember: “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).

–Niquelle Allen

Pathways through Lent

The Power of Prayer

Psalm 71:1–14 Isaiah 49:1–7 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 John 12:20–36

It all began with my search for someone to walk my new dog. Of the many replies I received, the one that stood out was from 18-year-old Jesse, whose father, he mentioned, was pastor of the Five Valleys Christian Church, which seemed an excellent credential.

Jesse’s story unfolded as I came to know the family. He was adopted at the age of 5, an adorable and lively little boy. Two years later, everything changed when Jesse began suffering the severe and uncontrollable tics of Tourette syndrome.

The family’s earlier days of happiness grew dark, and as time went on, Jesse fell into a downward spiral that would surely lead to his early death. They and all who knew them could only pray for an answer.

Then, when all seemed hopeless, they learned of a new method of deep brain stimulation being tried at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. With no assurance but faith that they could get an appointment, or pay for treatment, they prayed and boldly boarded a plane to Rochester. And they were not disappointed.

The doctor who performed this new surgery, with the family and Jesse’s full knowledge that it could fail, pronounced its success a miracle.

The outcome remains legendary at Mayo, as Jesse became the first patient to have a 95% recovery. His mind came alive again and began its return from the edge. He has since graduated from high school, run a marathon, and gotten a job and a driver’s license. He plans to enter university in the fall.

None of these things would have been possible earlier. So this Lent, my thoughts are on the boy who still walks my dog each morning—and my reinforced understanding of the power of prayer.

–Nancy Matthews

Missoula, Montana

 

Pathways through Lent

God Loves Me

Psalm 36:5–11 Isaiah 42:1–9 Hebrews 9:11–15 John 12:1–11

From 2001–2011, I was part of St. John’s team of lay Eucharistic ministers (LEMs), taking the Eucharist and news of the parish to members who couldn’t attend services. The people we LEMs visit often tell us how much it means to them to keep this connection to the church. What they probably don’t realize is how much we, the LEMs, gain from these visits.

Several times a year I had the privilege to visit an elderly woman in her lovely, antique-filled home. At first, she received me in the living room, where we had lively conversations and exchanged stories. As the years passed, however, she became increasingly frail and, ultimately, confined to bed. On those visits, I would often find her sleeping. Her caregivers and I would still share the Eucharist and pray together.

My last visit to her was shortly after her 102nd birthday and a few months before she died. In contrast to my recent visits, she was awake and fairly alert, although still in bed. She was interested in the flowers and card I had brought, calling them “beautiful.” During the Eucharist, she was able to recite most of the Lord’s Prayer from memory. After I read the final prayer, she spontaneously said, “God loves me.” I assured her that was, indeed, true—that God loves all of us. In a clear, strong voice, she responded, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”

I often reflect on this, especially in times of doubt or worry. My faith has been strengthened by the example of this extraordinary woman and her joy even as she neared the end of her life. We need to remind ourselves that God loves us—no matter what we do. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!

–Ellen Parke