Lent Reflections Week 4

Bible reading - Acts 2.1-2, 4-6

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

Reflection

The full name of the book of Acts is “The Acts of the Apostles”. But it could also be entitled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”. Hannah Steele writes in 'Living His Story': “The work and witness of the Spirit is integral to the book of Acts because the work and witness of the Spirit is integral to Christian mission and evangelism, and indeed the Church. The starting point of Pentecost is an outward explosion in Jerusalem, which ripples throughout the Middle East and eventually even further, fulfilling Jesus’ promise that his disciples would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria… and even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1.8).”

On the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit comes, the first thing that happens is that the disciples are enabled to tell the story of Jesus in many languages so that people from all over the world receive the news. The Holy Spirit is always given to help people who haven’t heard the story to hear and understand it.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, please fill us and help us to show the good news of God’s kingdom so that others might be drawn closer to God. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, look for at least one opportunity to say something about your faith in Christ and what it means to you. For example, when talking about your weekend, you might mention that you went to church and be prepared to say why you go.

Bible reading - Matthew 1.1-17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Reflection

I was visiting a central London church for their evening service, which turned out to be a service of adult baptism. When the time came for the Bible reading, someone stood and read the genealogies from the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. At verse 17, the reader stopped and sat down, and I wondered what on earth the preacher was going to make of this passage.The preacher talked us through some of the names in the list, highlighting some of the lesser known characters or those who made terrible mistakes as well as some of the heroes of the faith. After several minutes of this, he turned to those who were to be baptised and said, “Today, your name gets added to this list. Today, your story becomes part of this story of those who have passed through this world in relationship to God. Today, you connect your story with God’s story.”

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that through faith and baptism our stories become part of your story. Help me to share that story in all I do and say. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, look for at least one opportunity to say something about your faith in Christ and what it means to you. For example, when talking about your weekend, you might mention that you went to church and be prepared to say why you go.

 

 

Bible reading - Mark 10.46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

You would think it was obvious. The man was blind, and therefore unable to work, and therefore a beggar. When he called out to this great healer, “Have mercy on me!”, what might he be asking for, other than the healing of his eyes, so that he might see, be able to work, and feed himself? Yet Jesus, hearing his voice through the hubbub of the crowd, asks the question. “What do you want me to do for you?” “Let me see”, Bartimaeus pleads. And soon, he does. Sometimes we are too quick to speak, too slow to ask and to listen. When we talk about being a witness, or about sharing our faith (which Christians sometimes call ‘evangelism’) we can make the mistake of thinking it’s all about speaking out the things which we believe to be true. Jesus reminds us that meaningful communication, conversation which leads to change, often begins with a good question, and listening to what is said.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you asked good questions, like “What do you want me to do for you?” Help me to ask questions too, and to listen attentively to what is said in return. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, pay attention to how you communicate with people. What difference does it make to try to apply these communication lessons from Jesus? Write down what you notice in a notebook or journal.

Bible reading - John 4.1-42

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’

Reflection

We looked at part of this passage last week. Today we look at the beginning of the story. If you have time, do read the whole thing. There is a power imbalance in this meeting. Jesus is a man, a Jew, a teacher with followers, a speaker who commands large crowds. His conversation partner is a woman in a patriarchal world, a Samaritan in a society that discriminated against them, a woman who has been married multiple times in a culture where she would be disdained as a result. There is no doubt where the power lies between them.And yet Jesus makes himself vulnerable by asking this woman for a drink. He begins by acknowledging his thirst, a need that he could not meet but which she could. From that exchange flows the longest conversation with Jesus that we have in the Gospels, a dialogue that changed a life and a community.

Prayer

Jesus, thank you that you made yourself vulnerable, in your birth, in your death, and in your conversations with others. Please help us to do likewise. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, pay attention to how you communicate with people. What difference does it make to try to apply these communication lessons from Jesus? Write down what you notice in a notebook or journal.

Bible reading - Matthew 9.35-38

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

Reflection

Hannah Steele writes in 'Living His Story': “Jesus’ starting point with people was from a place of love. The image of the shepherd would have been familiar to Matthew’s readers who were steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures and they would have known it as an image used to describe the covenantal relationship between God and his people. The image of the shepherd in the Old Testament is also sometimes used to contrast with the ungodly leaders who are, in effect, bad shepherds (Ezekiel 34).

Matthew tells us that Jesus is the good shepherd because he has compassion on his sheep. The phrase ‘had compassion on them’ carries a physical connotation, as though Jesus was moved ‘in his gut’ by the state of the crowds… Jesus is moved by the needs of the crowd but also by the fact that they do not realise who they belong to; they do not know who the shepherd is. They do not know the contentment and peace that comes from knowing that the Lord is their Shepherd.”

Prayer

Thank you Jesus that you are the good shepherd. Help me to know your gentle guidance in my life, and to draw others to be part of the one sheepfold. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, pay attention to how you communicate with people. What difference does it make to try to apply these communication lessons from Jesus? Write down what you notice in a notebook or journal.

 

Bible reading - Mark 5.21-43

She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Reflection

I’m always too busy. Friends have pointed out that when I’m not required to be busy, I add things to my life so that I become busy again. Unfortunately, this means I can be impatient with interruptions. The phone rings, someone wants to speak to me, and inwardly I feel irritated that I am being prevented from getting on with my work. Instead, perhaps, I need to recognise that this conversation is the work that God has for me right now.We can hardly imagine the tension in Jairus as Jesus, instead of going to his house to heal his daughter as quickly as possible, stops to engage with the suffering woman. But Jesus won’t be rushed. Because he will be interrupted, there are two miracles that day instead of one.

Prayer

Lord, I’m sorry that sometimes I am in too much of a hurry to stop and pay attention to a person you bring before me. Please help me to allow myself to be interrupted by others and by you. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, pay attention to how you communicate with people. What difference does it make to try to apply these communication lessons from Jesus? Write down what you notice in a notebook or journal.