11 Feb Your Lenten Journey
Lent is a season during which I find that having a “traveling companion” is very helpful. To that end, I am pleased to offer some book recommendations. Two that I have used in previous years and that are designed as day-by-day readings are Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr and Parables and Passion: Jesus’ Stories for the Days of Lent by John Indermark. I loved them both.
This year I am reading two books that are not daily readings, but the chapter divisions make it easy to mark passages for weekly or daily use throughout the six weeks of Lent. 24 Hours That Changed the World by Adam Hamilton is an in-depth look at the life of Jesus from the Last Supper on Thursday night through the crucifixion on Friday. Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr is not a Lenten-season book, per se, but is a powerful reflection on prayer and the life of faith. Both are feeding my very hungry soul. I hope you will find one of these meaningful to your Lenten journey as well.
I jumped the gun a bit and started our Lenten sermon series last Sunday with an introduction to The Beatitudes. Preaching is a humbling, daunting task under the best of circumstances, but there are certain passages of Scripture that make me want to run and hide under the bed. That would include the Beatitudes which I’ll be preaching on for the next seven weeks. (Looking on the bright side, I should be able to get all the dust bunnies cleared out from under my bed in that amount of time!)
For one thing, the Beatitudes are some of the most recognizable words ever written, not just in scripture, but in all of Western literature. These words, which begin Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” have been pondered and prayed, preached on and written about for nearly 2000 years by people far smarter and more eloquent than I will ever be. What more is there to say?
But, of course, that is precisely the power of scripture—that it speaks and continues to speak into the hearts and lives of women and men across the centuries, despite vastly different circumstances, cultures, languages and needs. Every time we come to the scriptures we are different than the last time we heard it. Some new need or different situation has cropped up, and God’s Word speaks directly to us in ways that are often profound, usually surprising and sometimes even miraculous. And, besides that, we human beings are very forgetful creatures. Just because I heard the truth last week doesn’t mean I don’t desperately need to hear it again this week. So, we preachers are called to come out of hiding and preach on.
A second reason preaching the Beatitudes causes me pause is that they are just plain hard—and they are a hard sell. Jesus is not patting us on the head with these words or whispering a goodnight lullaby in our ears to put us to sleep. No, instead he’s calling us to revolution. The Beatitudes were and are seditious. Jesus upends the status quo and turns conventional wisdom on its head and then has the audacity to call his followers to do the same. Life in the Kingdom of God is not supposed to look like life anywhere else. We are to be different kinds of people, on a different kind of mission, with different priorities than the world around us. Like I said, it’s a hard sell.
But, the paradox is that it is in these very words that Jesus tells us how to live a truly blessed life and how to experience the kind of joy and peace that nothing can ever take away from us, that is eternal—but that eternity starts now. Right now, in my life and in yours, regardless of what the circumstances may be, the joy of the Kingdom of God in all its fullness can be ours. Now that’s worth getting out from under the bed for.
Yours for the Kingdom,