Live Lent Reflections: Week 3

 

Bible reading - Mark 5.21-26

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.

Reflection

Some of us were taught as children that fairness involves treating everybody the same. On that basis, Jesus doesn’t seem to have treated people very fairly. It is striking how his interactions with people vary. Jesus was not like a politician or leader with a small number of set questions or phrases to offer people. (“Have you come far?” “And what do you do?”) Rather, every conversation, every interaction was unique. We see this in this reading that we are looking at over two days.

The way Jesus responds to Jairus and the suffering woman are not the same. Jairus is a man in authority, used to giving clear instructions and getting his way. Jesus senses the urgency in his request, stops what he is doing and goes with him. The woman is afraid, ashamed, vulnerable. Jesus senses that too, and deals with her in quite a different way. How can I respond to the people I meet in ways that recognise their uniqueness?

 

Prayer

Creator God, thank you that you have made us all different. Help me to appreciate the uniqueness of every person we meet and respond to them accordingly. 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 11.16-19

But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;  we wailed, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

Reflection

The letters PLU are sometimes used as shorthand for the phrase “people like us”. This phrase is meant positively, identifying someone as a person who will fit in, who will belong, who we will like. It’s a human tendency to gravitate to people like us. It makes life easier when we all see things the same way.  Jesus did not spend his time with people like him. In fact, he was frequently criticised for the people whose company he seemed to enjoy. Tax collectors, prostitutes, beggars, the disabled – in other words, all the people that polite society disdained – were welcomed into his presence.What about us? Who do we spend our time with? Other church people? People who share our values, or our educational backgrounds, people of the same class or ethnicity? How can we be more like Jesus, and spend our time with other kinds of people?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you that you spent your time with all kinds of people. Please help us to relate well to people who are different from us, and to learn from them. 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 - 1 Thessalonians 2.4-8

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.

Reflection

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.”

Hannah Steele writes: “Paul knew that the gospel story could never be communicated purely with words but it had to be lived as well. Our story becomes more authentic to people when they see that it really does impact the way we live our lives. It is often through our daily lives that we demonstrate the topsy-turvy way of the kingdom of God. In a culture where people are more interested in whether things work than whether things are true, our lived experience becomes a potent advocate in our everyday witness.”

In other words, people need to see the authenticity of our story in who we are if they are to be truly touched by the story we speak about.

Prayer

Jesus, please help us to tell the story of your love and goodness through the way we live as well as in the words we say. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.

 

Bible reading - 1 Peter 3.13-16

Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

Reflection

As a teenager, I attended a church youth group where on one occasion we were asked to write down our testimony, the story of how we had become Christians and what difference our faith had meant to us. We then shared our testimonies with another person in the group.

You might imagine that this would feel very artificial, but I have always been glad of that experience. It helped me to articulate my own story of God, firstly to myself, and then to someone else, in the hope that I would then be a little more confident to share that story with others when the opportunity arose. And I think I was.

Peter tells us, “If someone asks about your hope as a believer” – about your faith in God, in other words – “always be ready to explain it.” So we need to prepare to do this well, and as Peter reminds us, with gentleness and respect.

Prayer

Gracious God, help us to be prepared to share our own story, the reason we have for putting our hope in you. Please give us those opportunities, and then help us to take them. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.

Bible reading - Acts 17.16-34

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the market-place every day with those who happened to be there. Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, ‘What does this babbler want to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.’ (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.’ Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said,

“For we too are his offspring.”

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’ At that point Paul left them. But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Reflection

You may have heard the saying, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.” When we think about Christians sharing their faith, the image that sometimes comes to mind is of one person – the Christian – doing a lot of talking, often with something that sounds a lot like a prepared presentation, while the other person is expected to listen. St Paul was a great talker. On one occasion he spoke for so long into the night that a young man sitting in a window dozed off and fell to the ground below. But here we see that he took the time to “listen” to his context as well. That listening then shaped the way he communicated when it was his moment to speak. We aren’t the only ones with stories to share. If we want to be able to speak, about our faith or anything else, we should first take time to listen.

Prayer

Loving God, every person we meet has a story to share. Help us to take the time to listen, to pay attention, and to be enriched by what we hear. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your 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

Hannah Steele writes in 'Living His Story': “Each Saturday The Guardian features an article called ‘Experience’, which focuses on the story of an ordinary individual who has a tale to tell about their life. These stories range from the near miraculous – the man who survived 76 days adrift a raft on the Atlantic Ocean – to the inspiring stories of the amputee who trained to be a professional tap dancer on stage. Some stories make you weep… Others are more humorous... The point is, anyone is free to write in and share their story and we, the reader, are irresistibly drawn by them.”

Some Christians fear talking about their faith because they don’t think they know enough about it or they wouldn’t be able to answer difficult questions. But most of us aren’t called to be great theologians or preachers. All we are asked to do is to tell our own story. And those stories draw in those who hear them.

Prayer

Lord, please help us to be willing and able to tell the story of our lives and your presence in them so that others might be drawn to you. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, take time to think about how God has changed you. Have there been particular moments when you have known God has been at work in your life? Collect your thoughts in your notebook or journal.