March 2015 – Lent
1 March, Mark 8:31-38, Lent 2
The 40-day period of Lent is often talked about in terms of a journey. We walk the pathway that leads to the cross. Jesus sets it out so clearly in these well-known words. Mark reports that Jesus spoke them to His disciples as they walked towards Jerusalem.
The actions which Jesus chooses to describe what it means to follow him, are actions that are confronting and challenging. Jesus calls us to: deny ourselves; take up our cross; and, lose our lives. None of these actions appear inviting, attractive, or encouraging. To walk this pathway is to take a deliberate course that is difficult and demanding.
So, this is the challenge we grapple with each day during Lent:
How do we deny ourselves, in order to lose our lives? What ought we to be giving up, putting aside or leaving behind, as we strive to walk with Jesus?
8 March, John 2:13-22, Lent 3
At a latter stage of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus enters the Temple (Mark 11). However, this same incident is reported early on, in John’s Gospel. John wants to signal what it means, from the outset. Jesus’ relationship to the Temple is problematic. He stands over and against much of what was happening there—although he still calls it “my Father’s house”.
The account in John presents this as a more violent encounter. Jesus enters with “a whip of cords” (Mark does not mention this). Those He drove out of the temple included sheep and cattle (the only animals Mark mentions are turtledoves). As in Mark’s account, Jesus also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
This incident depicts Jesus confronting those who failed to grasp what the Temple was for. His eyes are on something He considers to be greater than the rituals and customs practised in the Temple.
What are “the things that are greater” than worship rituals, for you?
15 March, John 3:14-21, Lent 4
The most famous verse in the Bible appears early, in this passage (John 3:16). It often provides a comfort to people of faith. It is good to be reminded about God’s love, for the world, expressed in Jesus.
However, the following verses are very challenging. Two classes of people are identified: those who love the light, and those who prefer darkness. A simple way to view the world. Clear, and uncomplicated.
It may be tempting for us to identify ourselves with the former, so everyone who does not agree with us is relegated to the latter category.
What if the words about “loving the darkness” apply to us? What if we are the people whose lives indicate we cannot “walk in the light”? How does this passage then address us?
How can we take steps to ensure that we “come to the light”, and not “love darkness”?
22 March, John 12:20-33, Lent 5
In our Lenten journey, we are getting closer to the cross. This passage is set in Jerusalem itself. It contains a simple request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Seems reasonable.
However, the response to this request is more about what we do not see, than what we can see. Jesus talks about a seed falling into the ground. We cannot see the seed when buried in the ground. We cannot see the life-forces at work as the seed pushes through the earth and sends a shoot skyward. We cannot see what is required to make the shoot spread leaves and set fruit. We can see the colour in the garden, but we cannot see the nutriment in the fruit.
And yet, there is something there. Just as Jesus is there, at work, quietly and persistently, in the lives of those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who dedicate their lives to following His way.
A Lenten challenge is: to accept that this process will not work – unless it begins with death.
What are we prepared to let go off – to let die – in order for new growth to take place?
29 March, Mark 11:1-11, Lent 6
With this passage, we draw near to the end of our Lenten journey. As Jesus enters the city gates, he makes some very strong statements. Are we equipped and prepared to follow His pathway?
The cloaks which people spread on the road recall the way that the King was greeted when he entered the city (2 Kings 9:1–13). The leafy branches which others spread are a reminder of the cleansing of the Temple, centuries earlier (2 Maccabees 10:1–8). The cry of “Hosanna!” is actually a cry to “Save us!” “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” are from Psalm 118, a hymn to celebrate the King’s arrival.
These are all politically-loaded elements. This is a story about a challenge to the way the Romans ruled the Jews. Jesus is the one who brings in the Kingdom – his ministry was inherently political.
Are we equipped and prepared to follow the same pathway which Jesus trod?
These reflections for February and March were prepared by Rev. John Squires