4th Week of Lent: Signs of Life

This post continues our walk through Lent. To find out more about Lent, go here. We begin each week with a reflection that includes scriptures and prayers that can be used daily as meditation and devotion. The three of us are also doing this Lent calendar and will be posting on how our “fasts” connect to the weeks readings.

We bought our house in November, so I have never seen what the yard looks like when it is green and flourishing. The last few weeks, although we have had cold weather, we have gotten a lot of rain. So all over the back yard I have these big green patches of grass, in the midst of a mostly brown and lifeless yard.

I get to see glimpses of what the yard will look like in its fullness.

But we aren’t there yet…

One of the most beautiful things about Lent is it takes place as the world transitions from winter to spring. It is a season about death giving way to new life and we see this in the very fabric of the creation.

The earth and creation are observing Lent right along with us.

And usually about now, Lent feels a little lack my back yard. We find ourselves in a transition period. It is not all death, but life has not fully taken hold.

So we look for signs of life. We see the places the resurrection begins to peak in, and we celebrate them

Just like the people of Israel in Joshua, we celebrate a change in the landscape and God doing new things.

The other readings show us other ways resurrection breaks in:

Confession.

Freedom.

Grace – both experienced and given.

A new vision of the people around us.

A new vision of who is “in” and “out.”

A new identity.

A new mission.

We see in these things flashes, images, and glimpses,

But we’re not there yet…..

Scriptures

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story:

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,  and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

Joshua 5:9-12

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.

While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.

Psalm 32

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude

Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
    that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We thank you for the grace you give us to change.

We thank you for the ways you have begun to make shifts in our hearts,

and we ask that you continue to work in our fasts for the next few weeks.

Give us the courage to speak truth about the way we have fallen short,

and the truth of Your love that never waivers nor stumbles.

Give us new eyes in which to see the world.

And give us the endurance to live in the kingdom which we experience as both now and not yet.

Amen.

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