The presence of Lent in the church calendar—40 full days of preparation for Easter—reminds us 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 the 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 God’s children closer: to increase their desperation for God, to remind them of God’s 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 Jesus 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.
Christ’s 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 God cares about, and then think about how you can imitate Christ by pouring your life out for others.
These readings end 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 of looking to God for significance and peace. In the past, I decided God’s Kingdom was made in my image, so that the hardest workers, the kindest, the most intentional people win. The Beatitudes remind us that God doesn’t value what I value. God 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 Jesus used to describe it. (One other note: all of the selections are poetry. While we love to be instructed by scripture, W. Brueggemann reminds us 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 our daily rhythm of life.
Find stillness, wait, and believe,
Below are reading for the first half of Lent. More to come.
“God is that way with us, He wants to hold us still with Him in silence….They cannot all be brilliant or rich of beautiful. They cannot all even dream beautiful dreams like God gives some of us. They cannot all enjoy music. Their hearts do not all burn with love. But everybody can learn to hold God…We shall not become like Christ until we give Him more time.” -Brother Lawrence
“Maybe you search for understanding, but find only one thing for sure, which is that truth comes in small moments and visions, not galaxies and canyons; not the crash of ocean waves and cymbals. Most traditions teach that truth is in these small holy moments.” -Anne Lamott
Mar 6 Matthew 5:1-12
Mar 7 Proverbs 2:1-15
Mar 8 Ps 94:12-22
Mar 9 Micah 6:6-8
Mar 10 Matthew 5:1-12
“Recovery involves quelling the riot of thoughts in the mind and thinking the overpopulation of images and feelings that accumulate with an abundance of activity. Silence and solitude are the recovery room for the soul weakened by busyness…In silence and solitude we regain our perspective, or more importantly, God’s perspective. Augustine described it as learning to “perform the rhythms of one’s life without getting entangled in them. Alone with God in prayerful quiet, the rhythms of life are untangled.” -Howard Baker
“Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ.” -Blaise Pascal
Mar 11 Ps 90:12-17; 91:1-2
Mar 12 Ps 95:1-8
Mar 13 Ps 120:1-2; 121:1-4
Mar 14 Zeph 3:14-18
Mar 15 Ps 107:1-9, 19-31
Mar 16 Daniel 6:25-28
Mar 17 Matthew 5:1-12
“To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of the theology of suffering is incomplete. The intersection of the two threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message. Lament and praise must go hand in hand.” -Soong Chan Rah
“This is the best way to act: talk a great deal to the Lord….Choosing Christ brings mystery, rejecting Him brings despair…I choose to look at people through God, using God as my glasses, colored with His love for them.” -Brother Lawrence
Mar 18 Ecclesiastes 7:5-14
Mar 19 Ps 130
Mar 20 Job 42:1-3
Mar 21 Isaiah 40:21-31
Mar 22 Ps 142
Mar 23 Hosea 5:15-6:3
Mar 24 Matthew 5:1-12