Daily Lenten Reflection

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. –Luke 9:22-24, NRSV

Who would willingly come to this threshold? With all society’s promises of happiness and fulfillment beckoning at every bend, who would choose to enter this week of suffering? Who would sit at the table of bread being broken, feeling the horrible tension of a body almost broken too? Who would be a witness at the cross of injustice, suffering, and grief? Who would go to the tomb to revisit the despair and dread, to face what can happen even to you who dare to challenge the systems of power? –Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Holy Week: To Enter the Suffering 

 

Reflect: 

  • How do you come to the threshold of Holy Week?
  • Consider the Lenten journey that has led you here. What has been preparing you for this Holy Week time of faith?
  • Prayerfully dwell with Luke 9:22-24. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?

Waiting for Emily

By Carolyn Brock

(This article first appeared in the December 1986 Africa Herald Magazine.)

One year ago I was waiting; I was full of energy waiting to break forth, full of life waiting to be born. I was waiting for Emily. I didn’t know at the time, however, that I was waiting for Emily. The baby kicking and hiccupping inside me was an unknown life, a mystery yet to be encountered. And it was perhaps because Emily had not yet been revealed to me that I felt so excited about her coming.

To feel something growing inside me, transforming my body, changing my emotions, creating new meanings for my life… this had been the process going on for many months. Now it was reaching a peak, and the awareness that this new person was actually alive and real, though inside of me, was very intense. I wanted to open myself up and see who was there (I actually dreamed about doing that one night).

One thing was becoming dramatically clear– a monumental change was about to take place. There would be no going back to a pre-Emily state. From now on she would be part of everything I experienced and chose. We were committed to share life together and be bound to each other forever. This was a rather terrifying thought at times when I realized the quality of life I would like to offer my child, the quality of person I would like to be for her so she could grow up whole and holy. Was I really ready to be a mother? Was I ready to be the grace and love of God to a child given me by the divine Parent? Waiting, I asked myself these questions and tried to prepare my heart.

As I reflect on these feelings, a year later, I realized I was not ready to receive Emily with the purity of heart with which all babies deserve to be greeted. But she came anyway. She came into the midst of my weakness, came and humbled me to tears with her beauty, came and challenged my selfishness with her need for nurturing. Emily didn’t wait until I was the perfect mother before she arrived on the scene. She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.

Is it not just this way with the coming of Jesus? So often we feel we are waiting for him to become more real in our lives. We long to see and touch him in more tangible ways. We long to feel him growing and living inside our very beings. We long to give birth to him so his goodness can be visible to our eyes. And yet when we realize the holiness demanded of us as bearers and birthers of the Son of God, we suddenly meet our total unworthiness and unpreparedness.

Babies don’t wait for parents to become perfect before entering their lives. And Jesus doesn’t wait for us to become perfect before he asks to be carried by us into the dark places of our world. In moments when we feel most unready and most unworthy he enters our hearts, surprises us with his energizing presence, humbles us with the beauty of his love, and transforms our selfishness into service through a gracious vision of those who need his care.

There is really no going back to a pre-Jesus state once we have felt his life pulsing within us. There is no disconnecting the cord of commitment without forsaking the persons we had hoped to become through the flowering of his love in our souls. We are forever bound to him once we have invited him to take up residence in our hearts. He keeps living in us, growing, moving, revolutionizing the very fiber of our beings.

This is what we open ourselves up to anew each Advent season. This is the time of waiting, the time of preparing, the time of expectancy. Into our imperfect hearts Jesus enters, bringing newness of life, freshness of hope. Let us wait for the miracle of his coming with joy!

Spiritual Practice:

When have you experienced the sacred within even when you felt less than perfect? How are you invited to be a bearer of God this season even if you don’t feel totally prepared?

“She had to enter my life and begin happening to me every day before I could understand how to be her mother.” Rest in the assurance that preparation happens along the way.

Christ Comes

by Shandra Newcom

It’s been a rough month for people I love. A few dear friends have passed away, many have been sick. The news I watch lists names of the dead, people who had lives stolen from them due to violence. We are living in a confusing time.

And it is the season of Advent.

From death will come birth.

How do we make this transition? How do we move from death to life? What does the Christ-child say to us to remind us that we are called to both honor and love those who have gone and honor and love those who are here?

Birth to death to rebirth. We experience the cycle of life.

It is the gift of Christ – this living in the place of “and”. We are sad and joy-filled. We grieve and we celebrate the birth of the one who comes.

And here’s how we know the time for Christ has come. Our bodies open to the message of peace. We mourn what we have lost, yes, but we move toward light – taking with us the memories and love of all who have gone before. We feel, within us, a breaking of walls and shattering of assumptions and we move, breathing the breath of life, toward the stable.

It will only be fear that holds us back. Fear that we aren’t ready, that we aren’t respecting our loved ones who have journeyed to God if we celebrate the birth to come, fear that we won’t understand or know the time or feel the peace. Sometimes, the very thing we are unprepared for is the very thing we need.

But we have been preparing. We have prepared our hearts for the coming of this baby – this child who will point us toward life and be present with us even to the end. We have grieved, deeply, and we have shed innumerable tears. And we have listened to the stories and we have sung the songs and we have lit the candles and we have created a space for holiness in our homes and in our lives. We now trust those preparations.

The opening of our bodies toward peace will give us and all the world an opening for Jesus. He will come into our hearts, stir us up, call us to justice, and heal us in our brokenness. He will be the way that we walk, slowly, sometimes in pain, the pain that comes from living. And he will lead us to joy, the joy that comes when we are together in community.

How will we welcome him? Will we shy away from the drama of the story of the birth? Mangers and shepherds and angels and stars tell quite the tale. And if we look toward the life we are welcoming we know that Jesus, too, felt pain. He lost friends. Jesus knew what it was to mourn. He understood how powerful presence was. He brought healing to brokenness. He also brought light to this dark, closed world.

He brings this light today. We are prepared. We continue preparing. We will wait for the day, which is coming soon. We will open our hearts and bodies to the peace of the baby. We will feel our sadness fully and live our joy completely.

We will wish one another a Merry Christmas. And we will understand that in the power of those words and this moment of time, Christ comes to the world and we, the world, rejoice.

Spiritual Practice: Christ comes into the realities of our lives. What are those realities in your life, in the world? How can you feel your sadness fully and joy completely this Advent season as you prepare a space to welcome this great light?