A Lenten DevotionAL for 2015A collection of reflections on the Daily Office readings by members of the parish
Cover art: The Prophet Jeremiah, roof of the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo 16th Century
Once again it is Lent. While we may mark this time differently from century to century and culture to culture, one thing we have in common with that great cloud of witnesses through the ages is that Lent refocuses us on Jesus.
Lent takes us to the core of faith, not faith in the free market system nor in our political systems, not even in our own special priorities. Lent focuses us on faith in Jesus and that greater love of his that gives life to all.
We began our spiritual discipline of writing a Lenten devotional to share as a gift with one another three years ago. Each year it becomes our companion along the journey in a slightly different way.
First, it was a printed booklet and many people asked to copies for share with friends. Last year, it was once again available in booklet form, but it was also emailed early in the morning to everyone on our mailing list. I was told it was often forwarded to loved ones around the world. This year, we are adding the daily devotions on our Christ Church in Short Hills Facebook page. I realize not all of you participate in social media, but for those who do, this will be a way to write a response to a meditation that may have been especially meaningful to you. One of our writers last year said, I wrote it, pressed send and would have loved to have had some feedback, some conversation. Well, heres our attempt at a new way to draw us into connection with each other.
I am so deeply grateful to those of you who have taken the time to create this remarkable gift. This years readings come from our Daily Office and focus mostly on Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. Our authors were asked to lift one or two lines from their assigned texts and use that as a theme for their reflection. Those passages are highlighted each day. One person said, What! Deuteronomy! Are you kidding? I dont know anything about Deuteronomy. She then went on to tell me that one afternoon she sat down and read the entire book. She argued with God. She argued with herself. She wrote her devotion and rewrote it. Thats exactly why this is so wonderful. It brings us places, even within our own hearts, minds and faith we may not have gone before. Weve also talked about vulnerability as a gift within community, that is rare in our culture.
Thank you to our contributors for putting yourselves out there. Most of us are not professional theologians, so this can be daunting, especially in a place like Short Hills. But you model why Christ Church matters. We become a safe and exciting place both to be ourselves and to grow more and more into the women, the men, and the community Christ calls us to be.
Lent is not considered a party atmosphere, but especially in this season, for Christ and for all of you, I remain:
The Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Mulder, Rector
Wednesday | February 18
Endurance is not a popular notion for anyone. But in his famous sermon on this passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, Gardner Taylor exhorts his listeners to, Press on! He repeats that phrase over and again: Press on! Press on!
But not without that which makes it possible to endure, to press on: looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Over the next forty days (not including Sundays - the day of resurrection), we are being called to run with perseverance the race that is set before us.
This year our texts for Lent come from the books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. They are the story of a long race where the runners often thought about giving up, taking a detour, going in another direction, seeking another prize. In these readings God disciplines his people in ways that make us uncomfortable.
Perhaps thats the point. When we consider how God has called us to live as his people, when we consider the things God has provided for our journey (everything from manna to eat to a great crowd of witnesses to support us along the way), when we consider what Jesus gave up for us all, not always being comfortable may be the precise reason Lent exists. It is a time of recalibration.
I was especially struck this year by that phrase, looking to Jesus. Think of all the things we set our sights on, all the running we do, the prizes we chase. Then Paul brings us back: look to Jesus. Remember Jesus as you run. Do not forget what he has done for you. Its a long race, but lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees Why? So, that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
This is Paul at his best, reminding us that all things work together for good when we work together with God. We stray sometimes, but Lent calls us back, back to looking to Jesus.
Lord, help us neither to give up along the race of life, but rather, to find our strength for each day by looking to you. Amen.
- Tim Mulder
HEBREWS 12: 1-4Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Thursday | February 19
Id always heard this passage as, I will be your God and you will be my people. It has been a source of comfort to be claimed by God as one of his treasured possessions. However, as I reflected on this, I was struck by the phrase you are a people holy to the Lord your God The Complete Jewish Bible phrases it you are a people set apart as holy.
What does this set apart look like and feel like? For that matter, what does my daily life look like if it is holy? To paraphrase a current question, if I were on trial for being set apart as holy, would there be enough evidence to convict me?
Is carving out time every Sunday morning to join a community of worship part of the setting apart process? Does participating in worship with the full expectation that Christ is in our midst and one day might be seen in the Eucharist constitute some part of the holy? Does believing in the efficacy of prayer and praying belong to the set apart life?
What about daily life, the daily commute, life in the office, decisions on how to allocate time and money? What are the hallmarks of being set apart as holy? Is there a check off list or is pondering these questions and trying to find the answers being set apart? How do I keep the holy in front of me as I live out my life?
God is wily. Rather than being able to continue to get comfort from being claimed by God, I now feel a responsibility to live my life so that I really am set apart as part of the holy family of God. How to do that will be wrestled with for the rest of my days.
- Sandra T. Johnson
DEUTERONOMY 7: 6-11For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you
out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Friday | February 20
On this third day of Lent, we reflect on a passage of Biblical life before Christs coming. God instructed the Israelites to have no pity for the wicked nations around them and not to serve their gods. The language is harsh and violent.
Reflecting on this sets a somber tone for Lent leading up to Palm Sunday and culminating in Easter. For without Christs gruesome death, we cannot experience his glorious Resurrection.
We are instructed not to pity the wicked but how do we reconcile this because each one of us is a sinner? We have parts of our personal histories that we may not only wish we could forget but that we may also regret and remember with varying degrees of shame. We are each personally responsible for our own actions. The burden of these actions can be very great.
Martin Collins wrote, Repentance from sin is the difference between self-pity and sorrow. Self-pity involves no repentance, while godly sorrow produces repentance.
Where is the redemption in this? My gift during this Lenten season would be to encourage all to recognize that there is a natural tendency to deal with lifes difficulties with a degree of self pity. Instead we should pray for Gods help and try to find a new focus.
- Tom Gordon
DEUTERONOMY 7: 12-16You shall devour all the peoples that the Lord your God is giving over to you,
showing them no pity; you shall not serve their gods, for that would be a snare for you.
Saturday | February 21
The writer of todays text tells how the Israelites were disappointed that God did not suddenly and decisively deliver the Promised Land to them. Instead, God said it would be a gradual process.
Recently I promoted an employee to the position of manager and the young man wanted to know why he was not given a significant raise upon assuming the title. I explained to him that being appointed a manager did not make him a manager. His appointment was the first step in the process of learning to be a manager. He was promoted because he had shown signs of leadership in his current job and now he would be expected to build upon that foundation and develop in to a successful manager.
Sometimes we forget that life does not always deliver instant results even if we deserve or demand it. We forget that the little boy who runs carefree around the playground today once clung to the wall and could not be tempted to cross the floor unless his mothers arms were outstretched ready to catch him if he fell. We forget that the mature woman writing her doctoral thesis was once the little girl whose biggest intellectual challenge was learning the alphabet.