Pathways through Lent

Early Mornings

Psalm 78:1–7 Proverbs 9:1-6 1 Timothy 4:6-16 Luke 4:14-21

As a young professional living in Atlanta a number of years ago, I found myself—like many others—working well into the evening nearly every day of the week. By Sunday morning, I was greatly tempted to stay home rather than get up to attend worship services.

I finally decided to start a new routine and attend the 7:30 service at a local parish.

The first Sunday I arrived about 5 minutes early—and enjoyed the quiet of the early mornings in a way I hadn’t expected.

On Sundays thereafter, I found myself rising and arriving even earlier. I would sit in the nearly empty church, kneeling in the silence and feeling the presence of God. I came to feel the love of God in a way I had never experienced before.

I found that even with my hectic schedule I could stop for a few moments and feel God’s presence. In those early mornings, I learned that God did not protect me from the difficulties of life, from less-than-perfect decisions or their consequences, but that He loved me, supported me, encouraged me, and rejoiced with me through all things.

As life gets ever more busy, we are all tempted to sleep in on Sunday mornings, to trim our time with God in order to meet our obligations. This Lent, may we be willing to rise a little earlier—and to listen a little longer to what God has to teach us.

–Susan Welch

February 28

Pathways through Lent

Understanding Judgment

Psalm 119:73-96 Jeremiah 3:6-18 Romans 1:28-2:11 John 5:1-18

I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right . . . (Psalm 119:75)

As a teacher, I find that the judgment and righteousness in Psalm 119 have perhaps a slightly different connotation than they do for people in other careers. Teachers are asked to judge and enforce notions of righteousness almost every minute of every day. One moment it may be a student acting out, another it may be an assignment or test to grade, and another it may be a phone call home to discuss progress. It is crucial that, while student actions affect the judgments we make and how we perceive righteousness, we must not permanently lose our willingness to see the good and potential in each student.

So too must judgment aid our understanding of life on earth without cutting off the possibility of change. As we interact with each other, we must keep in mind that acknowledgment does not mean approval and concern does not mean condemnation. Earthly decisions about righteousness are made by humans to reach earthly understandings, while heavenly judgments are given by God to aid our understanding of eternity.

This Lent I will strive to be ever mindful of how my judgments should be temporary guides to the constantly changing and complex network of people on this planet—and not eternal impositions sealing off the hope of growth and change.

–Katherine McClintic

February 27

Pathways through Lent

The Words of God

Psalm 119:137-144 Exodus 1:15-21 Romans 16:1-6 Luke 10:38-42

Today’s readings are some of the most well known texts in the Bible, including the story of Mary and Martha and a psalm of David. Many of us can recite these word for word.

As I read these texts I started asking myself if there was something else that the words might be telling us. With familiar Bible readings, though we hear them again and again, we don’t always listen—and we can miss new insights they have to offer.

As a teacher, I have tools that I use to help students who, like us, struggle to understand passages of text. One of my favorites is Wordle, which creates a visual display of the most frequent words in any passage of text. So I used Wordle on our four readings, hoping that together they might offer insights that I missed when hearing them separately. And I think they do.

For while these stories might be individually very familiar to us, they have common words: blessed, God, heart, judgment, leads, life, Lord, and whatever. Through these words came a powerful reminder of God’s unfailing love for us, telling us that—whatever life leads us to—God without judgment blesses us when the Lord is in our hearts.

This Lent, may we keep the Lord in our hearts—and keep those hearts open to the new insights in this season’s familiar scriptures.

–Jonathan Nateghi-Asli

February 26_option1

Pathways through Lent

He Loves Me. He Loves Me Not.

Psalm 90:13-17 Deuteronomy 31:30–32:4, 6b-12a Acts 3:18-25 John 7:37-41a

Picking the petals off daisies is probably not the best way to determine how much someone loves you. But I remember the days when, huddled with girlfriends in a field during recess, we took turns plucking the petals away anyway. We shared our secret crushes and celebrated when the last petal confirmed that our love loved us back.

While my petal-plucking days are long gone, I have to admit that, when it comes to my relationship with God, I’ve sometimes found myself flip-flopping between the He loves me and He loves me not camps. But today’s readings reminded me of how well God knows me—far more than those boys of my schoolgirl crushes—and that He loves me better and in spite of it all.

I forget this regularly. It’s easy to get so caught up in the throes of a job, relationships, and daily stresses that I lose sight of the fact that Christ knows me better than anyone. In times of grief, despair, or confusion, I forget that Christ knows all the wounds, scars, and losses that I endure. That intimate knowledge is both reassuring and comforting.

This Lent, I invite you to join me in getting to know God better. I plan on spending some time in the He loves me camp—remembering that He loved me enough to send His son to die on the cross and raised Him from the dead for my sake.

–Krista Bradley

February 25

Pathways through Lent

Lives of Integrity

Psalm 121 Numbers 23:5-12 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Matthew 20:20-23

Today is the feast day of St. Polycarp (born in A.D. 69), who was the bishop of Smyrna (today Izmir, Turkey). Polycarp is one of those church fathers who bridge the Biblical era of the apostles and the early years of the church.

He died as a martyr, burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his Christianity. Tradition records him as saying “Eighty-six years I have served [my God]. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” St. Polycarp used both his words and his actions to create a life of integrity—which he maintained even onto death.

In the reading today from I Corinthians, St. Paul also speaks of creating a life of integrity in both words and actions. St. Paul’s faith wasn’t just composed of words that seemed plausibly wise; instead, his faith was composed of real actions and commitments that testified to the power of God.

As we move toward Easter, I think about heroes of faith like St. Paul and St. Polycarp. Their beliefs guided their actions, and their lives were courageous testaments to the faith that they held so dear. Their lives of integrity are an inspiration.

This Lent, may we all follow the examples of these men, matching our good intentions and beliefs with actions to create lives of integrity—and, like St. Paul and St. Polycarp, testify to the power of God.

–Jack Reiffer

February 23

Pathways through Lent

The Light of Lent

Psalm 18:21-25, 29-34 Isaiah 40:27-31 2 Peter 1:3-11 Mark 10:35-45

Each year, I search for a theme for my life.

This year, my annual discernment has brought me to the theme of living into the light with ease and grace. As I focus on this message, my heart is warmed, and my load is lightened. The answers seem clearer, and the conflicts fall away. When I live into the light, I feel calmer, more alive, and more connected. I can learn to be gentler with myself, I can tend relationships that need healing— and I can shine the light on others through my work.

Living into the light isn’t just for me, however; it seems like just the right message for Lent, as well. This season, we are seeking to overcome the darkness in our lives and the sadness of Jesus’ death. We are learning from the grace of Jesus, who gave his life for us. And we are looking to the light that is just around the corner as Easter approaches.

This Lent, why not join me in seeking out—and warming your soul in—the light of God?

–Lisa Kirchenbauer

February 22

Pathways through Lent

Our Deepest Desires- John Henry Newman

Psalm 48 Song of Solomon 3:1-4 1 John 4:13-21 John 8:12-19

As anyone who has grown up in the church can tell you, Lent is supposedly a time to suppress desires.

Then why does today’s reading from the Song of Solomon offer phrases like “I will seek him whom my soul loves and I held him and would not let him go?” There seems no clearer expression of desires—and they are very clearly unsuppressed.

John Henry Newman, whose feast day it is today, offers some insight on suppressing desires. In a sermon, he wrote that “it is possible to obey . . . more from the fear of God than from love of him.”  St. John adds to this thought in the readings for today, telling us that “There is no fear in love . . . for fear has to do with punishment.

During Lent, we choose to suppress many desires—for specific types of food, for different types of comfort. But perhaps, like John Henry Newman suggests and St. John condemns, we are doing so more out of fear than out of love.

The readings today suggest that God is telling us that our desires aren’t necessarily bad. When we desire those things are God-given—not things that we use to compensate for emptiness—we are desiring God. And this should never be given up.

So let us spend part of this Lent not suppressing ourselves but considering what we really desire. Perhaps it is the assurance of divine affection, an invitation to live in community, help in our weakness, a solution to our personal failings.

Or perhaps it is just, as the Psalmist says, the steadfast love of God.

–Greg Capaldini

February 21