lent 2018: the kingdom of God is like....

The presence of Lent in the church calendar—40 full days of preparation for Easter—reminds me that it is wise to prepare.  When we ponder where we are headed and think about what is coming, we sometimes find ourselves strangely more engaged in the present as well.  In the Biblical record, God uses the number 40 as a measure of time for his people (It rained on Noah for 40 days, the Israelites wondered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before publically launching His ministry).  God used this time to bring His children closer to Himself: to increase their desperation for God, to remind them of His power and provision in their daily lives, to encourage and pour into them before a hard season ahead. 

 In the Catholic Church I visit every Ash Wednesday, the priest reminds us that Lent is experienced most fully in three ways:

1)   We sacrifice something in order to remind ourselves of thirst, of hungering after God, or to disrupt patterns that diminish our flourishing in Christ.

2)   We willfully use this experience of disruption to push us toward Christ, placing Him in the front of our minds, or at the top of our day.

3)   We turn our eyes from ourselves and toward others as we intentionally live more generously toward those in need during Lent.

For these 40 days, I pray you would be mindful of these 3 ideas, and maybe use them to orient yourself toward God. 

 His coming sacrifice and resurrection are our only hope for living well with ourselves and others.  Allow yourself to know this during Lent.  Allow yourself to recognize the abundance in your life, and to lean in to the lean placesJ.  Allow yourself to think about people who live with very little, and know that they often hunger for and understand God in ways that may be hard for us to understand.  Allow yourself to hear God’s words in these 40 days, to begin to understand what He cares about, and then think about how you can emulate Him by pouring your life out for others. 

This year I am starting our readings each week with the Beatitudes.  In the last year I have come to see all the ways that I have diminished the power of God in my life because I have cared about protecting and expanding my own power and security instead.  I have decided God’s Kingdom works just like mine, so that the hardest workers, the kindest, the most intentional people win. The Beatitudes remind us that God doesn’t value what I value. He promises to be present, generous and available to those who have no power, to those near the margins, to those who align themselves with the overlooked and against self-interest alone.  This Lenten season I am reminded that if I want to prepare myself for Christ’s coming kingdom, I would do well spend 40 days marinating in the words He used to describe it.  (One other note: all of the selections are poetry.  While we love to be instructed by scripture, W. Brueggemann recently reminded me that the very nature of God is mysterious, wonderful, and creative.  Poetry—instead of a helpful outline—is a fabulous medium to usher us into the presence of God.) 

When the priest at the Catholic Church places ashes on my forehead in the shape of a cross, he murmurs, “Turn away from your sin and believe the Gospel.” I pray that as we read these verses of God we would think about what it means to simply “Believe the Gospel” in the living of our lives.                   

Poetry from the Word of God

14-Feb Matthew 5:1-12                  11-Mar Matthew 5:1-12

15-Feb  Proverbs 2:1-15                 12-Mar  Ps 106:1-8

16-Feb Ps 94:12-22                        13-Mar Eccles 3:1-8; Ps 13

17-Feb  Micah 6:6-8                       14-Mar  Ps 101:1-6; 119:9-20

18-Feb  Matthew 5:1-12                  15-Mar  Micah 4:6-7; Luke 6:20-27

19-Feb  Ps 90:12-17; 91:1-2             16-Mar  Ps 22:1-11; 24-31

20-Feb  Ps 95:1-8                          17-Mar  Prov 3:1-12

21-Feb  Ps 120:1-2; 121:1-4              18-Mar  Matthew 5:1-12

22-Feb  Zeph 3:14-18                     19-Mar  Song of Sol 8:6-7; Isai 41:3-13

23-Feb  Ps 107:1-9, 19-31               20-Mar  Ps 116:1-9; Ps 127:1-2

24-Feb  Daniel 6:25-28                 21-Mar  Ps 9:7-14; 17:6-11

25-Feb  Matthew 5:1-12                 22-Mar  Ps 3:1-5; 21:3

26-Feb  Ecclesiastes 7:5-14          23-Mar  Micah 7:18-20

27-Feb  Ps 130                              24-Mar  Ps 28:1-2; 40:1-11

28-Feb  Job 42:1-3                       25-Mar  Matthew 5:1-12

1-Mar  Isaiah 40:21-31                   26-Mar  Ps 102:1-4

2-Mar  Ps 142                                27-Mar  Isaiah 54:1-8

3-Mar  Hosea 5:15-6:3                  28-Mar  Ps 18:25-36; 20

4-Mar Matthew 5:1-12                   29-Mar  Isaiah 55:1-12

5-Mar  Ps 143:5-10                        30-Mar  Ps 32:1-5; 38:1-11, 15-18

6-Mar  Ps 25:4-18; 19:7-14             31-Mar  Isaiah 61:1-11

7-Mar  Ps 103; 131                          1-Apr  Matthew 5:1-12

8-Mar  Isaiah 43:1-7

9-Mar  Ps 1:1-3; 23

10-Mar  Habb 3:17-19