Category Archives: Lent

Maundy Thursday Bread

Bread for Breakfast: the first meal of the day.
• Matthew 6:9
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”

I’ll bet you’ve never thought of your hours of sleep as fasting but that’s what they are. This “break-fast” meal is nourishment that only comes from heavenly food.  The downloadable graphic image at the left is created by Pastor Greg Long and used with his permission.  Click on the image to enlarge it and print.   Jesus’s familiar prayer can become bread for your daily nourishment.

Bread for Lunch: A meal eaten in the middle of the day.
John 6:32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven…35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.

Lunch is often a meal eaten on the run, “sandwiched” in between that first awakening and the end of the day. Doesn’t that sound like a metaphor for the span of our life on earth? Jesus declares “it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven…I am the bread of life.”  He is our spiritual nourishment for this “middle of the day meal” we call life.

Bread for Supper: the final meal of the day.
Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.“

Jesus had probably eaten many evening suppers with his closet friends. Unlike  other meals they’d shared, this “last” supper was to become one they’d never forget.  A simple piece of bread and an ordinary cup would become enduring reminders for his followers of a life link between them.  Jesus still honors his covenant to nourish “his” life within us through that bread and cup.  He doesn’t need to be reminded about that, but today we do.  

Focus of Preparation

•Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.
•Matthew 4:3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. [Deut. 8:3]’”

Jesus was sending his disciples out for a very special purpose.  That didn’t just happen, it took time to prepare. That’s what makes his instructions to the disciples so interesting. “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” It seems like comfort and convenience weren’t to be a part of their preparation. I wondered about the “no” parts.

The disciples were prepared to go out to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick”  but why not send them out with those small things that could give them comfort and convenience?  Did Jesus have in mind his own experience of being tempted in the wilderness as he gave them those instructions?  His own temptation had not been about hunger at all. The tempter had used comfort and convenience in his failed attempt to entice Jesus to settle for any means to an end and become a “convenient” Messiah.

Jesus still wants his disciple’s focus of preparation to be on proclaiming the truth that protected him from the temptation to settle for any means to an end – the word of God.  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  There’s bread enough to last until tomorrow morning.  I invite you to check back then for fresh Maundy Thursday Bread.

Practice…Authority and injury

I don’t know what I had in mind at the end of January when I wrote my list of word combinations to explore. I’ve spent hours thinking and reading many resources only to find myself back at the very beginning of time in Genesis when disobeying Authority first resulted in injury. That seems appropriate to remember on this first day of Lent.

Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
Genesis 2:16-17 But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.” TLB

injury: hurt, damage, or loss sustained
Genesis 3:16 Then God said to the woman, “You shall bear children in intense pain and suffering; yet even so, you shall welcome your husband’s affections, and he shall be your master.”
17 And to Adam, God said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate the fruit when I told you not to, I have placed a curse upon the soil. All your life you will struggle to extract a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat its grasses. 19 All your life you will sweat to master it, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from the ground, and to the ground you will return.” TLB

God’s Response: Genesis 3:21 and the Lord God clothed Adam and his wife with garments made from skins of animals. TLB

The ultimate Authority  faced with the disobedience of his creation and the required consequences, chose to respond by providing garments to temporarily protect their lives because they would be separated from him.  His response was their heritage and ours…UNTIL… Galatians 3:25-27.

“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor [the Law]. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

Promise of Forgiveness

Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. NASB

Everything that led up to that day of condemnation so long ago has led you to this day we’ve come to call Good Friday. We get a lot of practice learning about the crucifixion of Christ being the bridge of forgiveness between us and God and between himself and us. There’s a third reality to that sacrifice that’s much harder to wrap our heads around. It was a sacrifice to set us “free from the law of sin and of death… free to believe “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

That’s what what this solemn day is about. The sinless Savior did what no law, priest, pastor or counselor could do. He condemned the sin that our human flesh could so easily use against us and replaced it with his promise that we could be free to walk according to his Spirit. This day the promise of forgiveness became our reality.

Repent, Pray and Remember

Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.

This is our Savior…sweating blood…in anguish…pleading with God to tell him if there’s any other way. This is our Savior completely aware of just how bad it will be to be punished for our sin. This is our Savior who’s repeated concern is still that his disciples “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

It’s heartbreaking to read later in Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The rooster’s crow confirmed the worst…the Lord’s prediction had come true. They’d all fallen away…and Jesus was going to pay for it.

Repent, pray and remember… Jesus paid for you too.

Repentance of Expectations

Mark 11:9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

This is probably one of the most familiar Biblical stories associated with the week leading up to Easter Sunday. I’m sure you know it. There was the donkey, a prophetic symbol, the ride of choice for a king coming in peace. The cheering crowd confirming that Jesus’s ministry was spreading and the palm branches were the modern-day equivalent of their rolling out the red carpet for him.

The details of this story in the four Gospels vary a bit but the main idea is the same; Jesus’s determination to begin his final confrontation with sin in the city of peace, Jerusalem. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’ ” Luke 19

Jesus knew exactly what that triumphal entry was really about. The crowd’s Hosannas weren’t at all shouts of praise as I’ve come to think of them. They were cries of it’s literal meaning; “help” or “save, I pray” from people longing for Jesus to prove himself as the conquering Messiah they expected. That conflict between Jesus’s determination and their expectations explains why a short five days later their cries had changed from Hosanna to “crucify him.”

Thank God for this Palm Sunday reminder…sometimes repentance includes surrendering my expectations of how Jesus should prove himself to me and celebrate that he already has. Hosanna!

Repentance of Gratitude

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

This morning was a perfect object lesson for me. I spent 8 or 9 hours working on this title…Repentance of Gratitude…only to accidentally delete the whole thing as I tried to copy it. Despite my best efforts it was apparently meant just for me to practice what I preach.  I hope this  reconstruction is just what God had in mind for you to read.

Lent is fast coming to an end and I’m still learning about repentance. It’s easy to reduce it to it’s simplest definition, “being sorry.”  Regret is certainly part of repentance but James has led me to another path of thought. What if there’s a another side to repentance that involves our ability to live a good life?

We work so hard in so many ways to live that “good life” that we can hardly escape our sense of entitlement that what we have, even our wisdom and understanding, comes through our own efforts. It’s the sacrifice of that entitlement that becomes the repentance of gratitude for all God has given. Those unplanned surprises and less-than-lovely tasks that happen daily are opportunities to practice “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  That’s what the repentance of gratitude is all about.  Those object lessons come every day and last longer than Lent.

“Who is wise and understanding among you?” Remember to practice the repentance of gratitude every day and “show it by [your] good life…”

Secret Service Detail

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of notable political figures being carefully guided through a pressing crowd surrounded by a cadre of secret service agents for their protection. That image came to mind when I read “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”  Have you ever considered who your personal cloud of witnesses are; the Biblical secret service agents that have impacted your life…and why? Maybe it’s time for you to make your own list. Here’s mine..

Jesus: because he showed me his love, and that I was worth it.

Solomon: because he connected the passion of human love to the love of God for his people.

David: because he was brave enough to repent even though there were desperate consequences to his sin.

Peter: because there’d never been any doubt in his mind that he would faithfully serve Jesus…until that moment when he heard his own words of denial. Then repentance changed his heart’s focus from service to a deep love.

Paul: because he believed in a power that had nothing to do with his own abilities and ideas. He was faithful, willing and yes…an opinionated messenger that Jesus was the Savior of the most unlikely people…even him.

These Biblical heroes are my secret service detail. They’re the “great cloud of witnesses” that are my examples of a better way to get through the hazards of being human so I “will not grow weary and lose heart” in the name of Jesus.

Peace of Repentance

John 16:31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Quote from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
“Jesus was not rebuking the disciples in this passage. Their faith was real, but it was disordered and unfocused, and was not at work in the important realities of life.”

The idea of real faith being slightly unfocused isn’t really a surprise but Chambers comment made me look at the words of this Scripture more carefully. I can put myself there with those disciple’s hearing Jesus, the one I’ve pledged to faithfully follow, speaking these words to me; ‘You will leave me all alone.” Ever done that?

Of course you have! It hurts to remember failing him doesn’t it?
Remembering that reality is one way Jesus leads you to confession and repentance. Jesus knows…”In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus says remember and repent… “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” “I have told you these things, so that…IN ME…you may have peace.” That’s faith that works in the important realities of life. That’s the secret of the peace of repentance.

Repent: view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse.

Expanded Thinking

Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Peter, James and John were confused. They’d just seen the inexplicably mysterious power of the unseen God. They also knew firsthand Jesus had the power to heal and to restore life where there was none but a dead man can’t bring himself back to life, can he? So what could “rising from the dead” mean?

The unseen, all powerful, all knowing, ever present God had inserted himself into their thinking when he spoke “from the cloud.” Jesus had changed their daily lives and now he’s given them “orders” to wait before they tell anyone what they’ve seen…the caution to wait…because there’s more to come.

It seems like their thinking process is being expanded to include the mystery of the unseen Father, the reality of Jesus who’s the bedrock of that faith and the promise that comes after “the Son of Man [has] risen from the dead;” the Holy Spirit.  Maybe that’s exactly what our focus of Lent is to be; to expand our thinking and help us acknowledge the fullness of God even when life is mysterious and confusing.