Day 15 in Lent
The urge to be number one is very strong. But we each have a unique part to play in making a difference in the world.
READ Matthew 20:20-27
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him.
And he said to her, 'What do you want?' She said to him, 'Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.'
But Jesus answered, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?'
They said to him, 'We are able.'
He said to them, 'You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.'
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers.
But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.
The urge to be first and be number one is very strong. It drives careers, poisons families, ruins friendships and works against true human flourishing. We tread one another down to get to the top.
The story of James and John shows the same attitude among the disciples (and their families). Jesus rebukes them in words which are unforgettable: 'It will not be so among you.'
Greatness in God's household is a race to the bottom, not a race to the top. Humility, not status, is the key to joy and satisfaction.
The one who chases power or position can never be content. Even when we reach the top (however we define it), anxiety about staying there steals our peace.
The way of humility and meekness is counter-cultural. But the way of the servant is also the way of joy and surrender and true fulfilment.
How does it feel to know that when God looks at you, he sees someone infinitely precious and equally called to join in with God, alongside the most famous saints?
You have a unique part to play in making a difference in the world. Spend a few moments in prayer reflecting on how you might offer yourself to serve God in the world.
Day 16 in Lent
READ Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.
As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'
When he saw them, he said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were made clean.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, 'Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Ten leprosy sufferers come to seek healing. All are made clean but only one – a Samaritan – returns to Jesus to give thanks.
A thankful heart is the flipside of the coin of meekness. The two go together. Those who live in selfishness and pride so easily miss God's blessings: the everyday joys of creation, of family and friends, of simple pleasures.
Our narrow hearts look always for what's not right or for that one thing more. Contentment vanishes like morning mist.
A meek heart is a wider and wilder heart, broadened and deepened by thanksgiving and praise. Praise and thanksgiving are daily disciplines for Christians – key spiritual exercises in meekness.
In praise we bow before God and remember our place in the world. In thanksgiving we rehearse and enjoy all that God has given us. The meek not so much inherit the earth as remember to enjoy it.
Can you cast your mind back over the last day or two and remember before God something for which you are deeply grateful?
Re-live that memory with the knowledge that all good things come from the heart of our generous God.
Day 17 in Lent
I do hope and pray that you are finding these reflections beneficial. It is also a good discipline for me to write them and to pray through them every day, along with you. It is a blessing that we are connecting together through these reflections as we journey through Lent. Revd Karen
READ Colossians 3:9-15
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Baptism is full of rich pictures of the Christian life. This part of Colossians focusses on the idea of new clothes. The new Christians come to the waters of baptism and strip off their old garments – symbols of the life they leave behind.
They go down into the waters of baptism and rise up to a new life. As they come out of the water each is given new clothes.
Colossians says these clothes are like Christian qualities which need to be put on each day. They are the qualities of Christ himself. Among them are humility, meekness and patience, the focus of our beatitude.
As Christian disciples we never grow out of our baptism. Each day, together as a community, we return to the profound actions of dying to our old self and rising to new life; of putting off our old attitudes and putting on Christ again.
What would it be like for you to 'put on Christ', like you put on clothes in the morning?
From what you have read or heard about Jesus Christ, what is the quality you feel compelled to 'put on' today? Spend a few moments asking God for help in this.
Day 18 in Lent
‘Jesus the Prophet’
READ Matthew 5:1-10
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
'Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
'Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The portrait of Jesus is given a fourth dimension. Jesus is hungry and thirsty for righteousness.
In the third beatitude about meekness, Jesus puts himself in the long line of Israel's kings. The ideal king would enter the city humble and riding on a donkey (Matthew 21.5, quoting Zechariah 9.9).
In the fourth, Jesus places himself in the long line of the prophets – Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Isaiah – who long to see God's justice prevail.
The prophets hold to a powerful vision of what the world can and should be: a world in which the weak are protected, not exploited.
Jesus describes this vision of a new world as the kingdom of God (or the kingdom of heaven in Matthew). The prophets often act out their message in powerful signs.
The gospels will show us that Jesus is a prophet in this long tradition – and even more than a prophet.
Still your mind. Take time to listen to the words of Jesus and repeat them several times with the rhythm of your breathing:
'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.'
What does this sentence raise up for you?
Day 20 in Lent
Welcome to the fourth week in Lent. How is it going for you?
READ Luke 4:16-22
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.'
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, 'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?’
In Luke's gospel, the first public act of Jesus' ministry is here in the synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus reads a portion of the Book of Isaiah (mainly from Isaiah 61) as a kind of manifesto for his ministry.
Jesus' life is good news in action. The poor hear the good news. Captives are set free. The blind receive sight. The oppressed are delivered.
Each of these (and more) flows out of Jesus' hunger and thirst for justice: for the world to be as God intends it to be. The Christian faith is about far more than personal righteousness or seeking a place in heaven.
Part of being a Christian is sharing this longing for the world to be set right – for God's kingdom to come. Part of being a Christian is believing that the kingdom will come one day and this deep longing will be satisfied.
What would represent 'good news' for you, or someone you love who's going through the mill at the moment?
Spend some time asking God to bring healing or resolution in these situations.