Pathways through Lent

Time

Psalm 27:5-11
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Wisdom 7:24–8:1
John 5:19-24

When I was very young
Time for me stood still
A day with nothing to do
Was like forever climbing a steep hill!
“Take your time”

The concept of time
I then did not understand
Nor that this was a clever concept
Surely developed by man.
“Be on time!”

In my youth I became aware that this truth is stern
The sun rises, the sun sets
Thus a day is gone forever
Never, never to return!
“Time waits for no man!”

 As an adult, time began to be precious
As it finally became clear
That time was a kind of commodity
To value, to respect and even fear.
“Time marches on!”

 Now in the autumn of life
The speed of time is frightening
I should have stored it when time stood still
As it now passes like a bolt of lightening.
“You are out of time!”

 I have suddenly arrived at the place
As was destined to be the case
Perhaps even an act of God’s grace
Where eternity and I will come face to face!

 – Janet Helgert

March 31 - Time


 

Pathways through Lent

Remember the Playground Rules

Psalm 26:1-8
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 5:1-12

We desire to be understood and seek to understand others. But, sometimes, we experience conflict and discord in our lives and relationships with others. The desire for peace and harmony is an essential part of the human experience. Most of us first learn about conflict and the experience of reconciliation on the playground. The essentials of human relationships are first experienced through interaction with playmates. Someone playing too long on a swing or not waiting their turn can be a source of major playground conflict.

How do kids resolve these conflicts? They point to the playground rules: everyone gets a turn and no one gets to cut in line. Children also navigate their play environment by learning how to belong and the importance of sharing. If someone is screaming and crying, everyone’s experience is diminished. Children learn to comfort each other by sharing a toy or playing a different game. When there is a new kid on the playground, the children know someone should invite them to join in. The playground is the birthplace of caring for others and feeling the need to be cared for and respected.

Jesus said we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. As adults and as Christians, we should remember the playground rules. It’s not okay to take a parking space from someone, even if you’ve been looking for thirty minutes. If you see a new person in church, walk over to say hello and maybe strike up a conversation. Maybe carry cash and share it with a person on the corner holding out that cup?  Wait patiently in the grocery line if someone decides to write a check and takes their time even if you are running late. How about picking up one of those casserole pans and making a dish to feed our homeless neighbors?

In your daily life and work, remember the playground rules and play nice.

– Niquelle Allen

March 29 - playground

Pathways through Lent

Take Courage!

Psalm 88 or 91, 92
Genesis 47:1-26
1 Corinthians 9:16-27
Mark 6:47-56

Jesus’ words to the disciples in the reading from Mark shine hopefully to us today: “Take courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid.”  For don’t we all at one time or another find ourselves on a windy and stormy lake, straining at the oars, unable to make out the shapes and forms surrounding us, unsure whether that figure moving toward us is a ghost or is God Himself?  In these dark moments, today’s story reminds us that Jesus is with us, telling us to take courage.

And what is courage? Courage is acting out of hope in the face of fear. Courage is a cancer patient going to chemotherapy despite the fact that it will make him feel nauseated and weak, and the outcome of the treatment is yet unknown.  Courage is waking up and facing a painfully open world, day after day, following the death of a loved one. Courage is softening our hearts to see, hear, taste, and smell the miracles that God is doing every day, miracles that the disciples themselves missed because of their “hardened hearts.” Courage is trusting that the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven is one of abundance, not scarcity – although everything in the world tells us otherwise.

Courage is walking through the penitential season of Lent, plodding unflinchingly towards the blackness of the Good Friday tomb, trusting that once again God will bring life out of death.  Courage is making space for the still, small voice of God – a voice that might indeed be calling us not to something small but to something very, very big.

– Sarah Taylor

March 28 - Tomb

Pathways through Lent

Mary’s “Yes” to God

Psalm 122
Isaiah 56:6-8
Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13
Matthew 9:35-38 

My “yes” to motherhood was the day of my son’s birth, 17 years ago this spring. He was born with a congenital heart defect and rushed across state lines to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  At the time I didn’t know, nor could I fully comprehend, how far this love would take me.

Sacrificial love.

It’s what God’s own Mother so freely gave in her fiat to the Angel Gabriel. Such grace and courage, a love so strong it pierces her heart, and not only hers, but the heart of her Divine Son pierced by the Roman soldier while He lay dying on the cross, out of which flowed blood and water from his side. The blood of divine life, the water of the mortal, a merciful commingling in anticipation of our eternal life in Heaven.

I couldn’t help but marvel that my young son as an infant bore the same side scar as our Lord, the result of the atrial balloon septostomy he sustained while just hours old, giving him the oxygenated blood that he needed in anticipation of the arterial switch operation he would later undergo at just three days old.

My life of faith hit the ground running that day. My own mother ran to the hospital chapel seeking answers, and what she found was the faith reading from Matthew 8:5-13 about the Roman Centurion deeply concerned for the life of his servant. Jesus was amazed at what He found, saying to those around him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” It was this faith that healed the Centurion’s servant, much as my own heals my son.

Mary’s “yes” to God. Our own “yes” to faith in the one true God, the source and summit of everything good in our lives.

– Alicia Grimaldi

March 27 - Annunciation 2

Pathways through Lent

The Face of God

Psalm 119:97-120 or 81, 82
Genesis 45:16-28
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 6:13-29

“When you look into the eyes of the one you love, you see the face of God.” This is my favorite quote. It sums up my feelings of love and my belief in God. When you hold your child in your arms—as a tiny baby or as a growing teen—looking at their sleeping face or looking into their eyes, you feel their love, you see their grace, you get their unbinding love.

This is the same way I see God. I see Him through my children, through the love of my partner, through peaceful breezes on a spring day, in the sounds of laughter at a dinner table filled with friends and family. It’s a hard concept to grasp really, and one I didn’t, until I sat holding my first child as she faded off to sleep. Children are the vessels of God’s love. No anger, no hate, no prejudice.  It was then I realized our children, family, and community all are the face of God.

I grew up thinking faith and belief were interchangeable words, but they are different.  You can believe something based on knowledge or scientific fact, but your faith is just that—accepting a truth without having concrete evidence, without being able to touch or see it for yourself. But I can see God through my faith when I look into the eyes of the ones I love.  It gives me inner strength, happiness, fullness of heart, all of which I receive from my faith in God.

Life is not easy, but difficult times help me appreciate life’s fullness.  I have endured tough times, sickness, the death of loved ones, unfair moments when I just couldn’t imagine taking on one more thing, but instead of asking God “why did You do this to me, or let this happen?” I look at the ones I love and see God’s love and strength with loving arms open wide, eyes of comfort and acceptance there to give me strength.

“There are no coincidences and no accidents in life. Everything big and small is for a reason…” – unknown

Brandon A. Montgomery

March 26 - Face of God

Pathways through Lent

Feast of the Annunciation

Psalm 40:1-11
Isaiah 7:10-14
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:26-30

In the Gospel stories of the Annunciation, the Divine overshadows something so basically human as conception.  Three vulnerable people are asked to deal with the resulting earthly dilemmas: Mary, a virgin, is told she will have a child of the Holy Spirit; Elizabeth, a woman who is old and thought to be barren, is found to be pregnant; and Joseph, a proud man with doubts, is told to trust God and wed Mary who is with child by another.

Societal standards then and now hold these characters to worldly judgments. Each is in a situation that could subject him or her to condemnation or ridicule. Although they face drastic and terrifying changes in their lives, they submit to God’s plan.  None knows what will be the outcome.

Whether we take the story for fact or allegory, the message for us is to accept what the Lord requires of us no matter how unlikely or uncomfortable. The angel tells Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” She replies, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

Most of us will not face such enormities, nor will we have angels to guide us in finding God’s plan.  But if we use Lent to reflect, pray and listen, we may discover it.

– Louisa Barker

Image: http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/florence/santacroce/0070.jpg
Image: http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/florence/santacroce/0070.jpg
Pathways through Lent

Through Feeding I am Fed

Psalm 31:15-24
Isaiah 2:5-7
Revelation 7:13-17
John 12:23-32

After several months of resisting God’s call, I finally stepped forward and found myself volunteering at my church’s soup kitchen.  I was uncomfortable at the thought of being around those who were so different from me, but thought perhaps I could be of service to those so much in need. After that first day listening to their prayers of thanksgiving for what little they possessed, I was humbled by all my abundance.

Over the years, praying and talking with those who came to us for basic necessities, I learned their stories: the Viet Nam vet who continued to suffer from PTSD, the schizophrenic whom we referred for medical treatment, the young brothers who’d left college to work and pay their mother’s medical bills, the businessman who lost all when he succumbed to the power of drug addiction and who was learning a life of sobriety, the members of the LGBT community who felt ostracized from society, the young family who moved to find better opportunities, and countless others. I watched as they struggled to build new lives and find God’s love in their limited circumstances. In a world where we too often worship money and power, the least of those among us indeed taught me that God loves us all equally as His children without judging our circumstances.

During this Lenten season, let us remember we are all children of God and reach out to those who need to see God’s light and love reflected through us.

– Susan Welch

March 24 - Feeding