Lent 5 and then some

Yes – I know.  Well the intentions were certainly there…it has been encouraging to hear how well some folks are doing with their ‘sacrifices’ for Lent whether it be coffee or chocolate or comfort eating.  I wonder though how much you are pining for those ‘items’ you have laid aside. 

The verse from scripture in this series is

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness; they will be satisfied.  Matthew 5:6

The challenge in today’s reading is found in the idea of going without and seeking after – think about feeling hungry or thirsty.  We are fortunate – we crave food and usually it is there – turn on the tap and fresh cold water pours through.  True hunger and thirst is something we rarely feel but we know that when we are hungry or thirsty it becomes all consuming.  When will we eat next?  Where is the nearest tap or in my case coffee shop…? The idea behind this verse is genuinely that simple. 

Blessed are those who want to know more about God – they will be satisfied.  It is that desire to learn more, experience more, understand more and fill the hunger within our spiritual bodies.  Sadly we often only eat snacks that keep us going but don’t fill us up and make us strong.  I commented on this a wee while back in a sermon reflection – many Christians have a Sunday roast (vegetarian or otherwise!) at a Sunday worship and expect that one meal to keep us going all week.  The Christians with confidence and a strong faith are those who feed regularly and are satisfied by the most High God.  Perhaps the kind of comfort eating I need to focus on this Lent is not the chocolate cake but more time in the presence of God – not always working but simply enjoying His presence.  After all I don’t comfort eat for the energy or health benefit but because it makes me ‘feel’ better.  Yes – I think I like that idea – comfort eating with God.  For other Christians – sometimes it is a change of menu that is required, for God is creative and forward thinking.  Sometimes we get stuck on the set menu that we don’t realise that we are missing out on other great things from God.  When it comes to your faith reflect for a moment on your hunger for God and your spiritual diet.  Do you need to eat better?  Do you need to try a different menu?  Remember God will satisfy you – he is the Chef. 

There is an old saying:  7 days without prayer makes one WEEK.

What are you hungering for this Lent?  More of God or what you sacrificed for 6 weeks? 

Loving God, we thank you that you do not hide yourself from us but make yourself known.  We thank you for Jesus who opened our eyes to the wonder of your love and mercy.  As we continue through Lent leading towards to Easter, help us to hunger and thirst after you.  Help us say “yes Chef!” and respond to your feeding.  Satisfy us and build us up in strength, courage, confidence and love.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen. 

Lent 4?

Well folks how is your Lent going?

I am doing okay with the comfort eating but obviously not so well with the reflective blogging!  Not that I haven’t been reflecting.  In fact there is so much to reflect on at the moment that my head is spinning.  And time is something that has become so filled up I haven’t had time to blog.  I have just uploaded some documents and trying to put the service together for Sunday.  We have also had a painter in, and moved bedrooms around and the whole house is in a guddle.  No room is exempt apart from the bathrooms. 

I don’t know about you but I don’t like clutter.  It just gets in the way.  But I do like the clean feeling when it is all tidied up.  And the great thing about a big mess is the feeling is increased.  Lent is a time when we are to declutter – our homes, our lives and especially our spiritual lives.  Over the months we pick up baggage – doubts, criticisms, and niggles that eat away at our faith.  Lent is a time to let go of the burdens we have collected whilst seeking healing, forgiveness and guidance.  In the desert Jesus would have prayed and thought about his 30 years in the family home and business.  He too had to let go in order to take up. 

I hope that you find time during Lent to let go and take up God’s offer of mercy and renewal. 

Psalm 139: 23-24 Investigate my life, O God, 
      find out everything about me; 
   Cross-examine and test me, 
      get a clear picture of what I’m about; 
   See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— 
      then guide me on the road to eternal life.  The Message

God bless you in your letting go and taking up.

Love Sarah

Lent – Day 3

Are you impressed to see three Lent blogs in a row?  Me too!  Though I may have to reflect on whether the cheesecake I ate last night after Pizza Praize was a reward or comfort eating? (I gave up comfort eating for Lent) The Pizza Praize event that the youth group of the Church had put together was excellent.  With games, music, bible reading, prayer, activities and food – it was original for Forth though many others would call it Messy Church which is run along very similar lines.  The atmosphere was fabulous and photos will be going up on the website shortly. About 48 people went, of which half were children, and some of whom were not church folk.  Yet what saddened me was how few came from the established Church.  Now you might argue that it simply wasn’t their cup of tea (or kind of food!) and you could justifiably say that the weather was not helpful (the snow and hail was certainly tough going for those who walk) and people do have other commitments.  But still I felt saddened.  So that is why I question whether the cheesecake was reward or comfort. And then I read today’s material.Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5A tough one because people who are meek usually don’t inherit anything except the jobs noone else wants.  Rarely I suspect will you ever find a high-flyer in the business world who you would call meek.  You only have to watch The Apprentice to know that.  Our understanding of meek is usually wishy washy and soppy, a doormat, someone who will bend to your will with head bent.  So when we read this line in the Beatitudes we think that we too should be like that as Christians.  However Scripture is full of stories of God’s children being anything other than meek.  When Elisha is called a baldy by a bunch of boys in 2 Kings 2, he calls down a curse on them in the name of the Lord and two bears attack the boys.  When the apostles or Paul are pulled before judges and kings they plead their case with passion and conviction.  When Jesus meets the temple sellers in the Temple courtyards, he turns tables and puts them out.Being meek isn’t about being a doormat for God, it is about being humble before God.  And this is what Jesus teaches us again and again.  At his baptism – this is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.  His 40 days in the desert where again and again Jesus refuses to put God to the test.  At the Transfiguration on the Mountain.  Before Caiaphas and Pilate and most importantly upon the cross.  Jesus wasn’t meek about the message he had to bring.  He allowed himself to be humble before God and by doing so ‘inherited the earth’.I find it really challenging at times to keep going.  Workload, family pressures, doubt and pride all get in the way.  And of course disappointment.  Not unusual I suspect for many of us.  But when I remember that the Church already has a Messiah, that God is the one in control and that although I frequently step into the unknown – I step with God, then I am happier to be meek.Nick Fawcett writes:Isn’t that what discipleship should mean:  being ready to speak out against wrong and stand up against evil, to take on a challenge and venture into the unknown, meeting obstacles, difficulties and disappointments, yet, if it is God’s will, persevering to the end, risking all if necessary. This is the meekness Jesus showed and his followers showed in the early church.  This is the kind of meekness we are called to show today.Holy Lord, we thank you for your presence in our lives giving us strength, courage, conviction, passion, hope and love.  Forgive us when we forget all these wonderful characteristics of our faith and allow them to become lost in the idea that we must always concede, that we must give in and be the doormat of the world.  Our faith makes us strong yet often we are weak.  Help us today to reflect on who we are meek for – is it you or is it the world?  If we find ourselves going against the flow in any areas of our lives because of our faith, strengthen our resolve, provide us with what we need including support and show us the way forward.  Give us a spirit of true meekness, ready to give you pride of place in our lives and the willingness to live it out.  Amen.

P.S.  There is still half a cheesecake in the fridge!  And I have decided last night’s chunk was reward! 🙂  

Lent – Day 2

Blessed are those who mourn for they will receive comfort. Matthew 5:4All of us have at some point or another had to deal with bereavement and loss or some kind of tragic event, unless of course, you are one of my younger readers.  Perhaps then you have witnessed the grief of a friend.  Ministers, rather like funeral directors, live in a strange world of grief – part of it yet separate from it.   There always has to be some kind of distance – a professional footstep maybe.  Yet despite the necessary professionalism there is always compassion.  Human nature being as it is – we, the professionals,  are affected by the grief of others.  Even today music for me brings memories of the grief of others – everything from “You’ll never walk alone” to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and throw in a little Tina Turner and Michael Buble and I might have to start listening to Classical Radio.What the compassionate element to the human personality is indicative of though is God.  If you believe that we are made in the image of God – that is, we are his children and therefore we embody elements of Him – then the compassion we feel for another who is hurting is reflective of the compassion God feels for us when we are hurting.  And just as we draw alongside another in pain, just as we feel moved to help another so to does God feel for us.  He draws alongside and offers us comfort, reassurance and help.  Blessed are those who mourn for they will receive comfort – Jesus promises us that we are not left alone in our grief or sorrow.Lent is a time of preparation, a time for letting go, a time for spring cleaning.  But it is also a time of contemplation and reflection.  On Good Friday God the Father needs our compassion.  Perhaps today is a time for you to talk to God about any bereavement issues that are difficult for you – maybe you need comfort or the reassurance of life everlasting.  Or perhaps this is a time to remember those who helped you during difficult times and thank God for them.The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want – Psalm 23Loving God, during this time of Lent, and especially today we remember those times we have given and received comfort.  We thank you for those who have carried us in their compassion.  We thank you for always being with us no matter what – strengthening, carrying, loving us.  Help us with any scars of grief that we may carry still, especially if they are having a negative effect on our lives. Through your touch in our lives bring healing and peace. In Jesus name we pray. And if you are mourning the loss of chocolate, caffeine or something else – pray and you’ll be amazed at the comfort you will receive.   :)May God bless you.Sarah

Ash Wednesday Lent 1

Lent is an interesting time of year that has become absorbed by culture.  For some it is a time to spring clean their lives by giving up chocolate, red wine or some other fun but not so healthy practice.  Others take a more positive step to take something up – work on a long uncompleted project, learn a new skill, read a book.  Tonight at Midweek Worship we are going to consider different options for Lent.  An idea I am toying with is whether or not we lay something down for the time of Lent – is it possible to lay down a responsibility for Lent and use the time to focus on another element of our lives? Many people are so busy in this world – yet we rarely stop to see what we are doing because we are so busy doing.  Is it possible to say that for the next 6 weeks I will take the time I usually spend running round like a headless chicken to sit down and work out how I spend my time?  Reading this I suspect many will say – no chance.  There is always stuff to do and it is impossible to take a break.  But do our children need to go to every social club – can we spend the hour together playing board games?  I don’t write this lightly for even as I type it I wonder if it is possible to say No.

I have set myself a 40 day challenge to read more and to put up a short reflection each day on the blog.  I doubt I will succeed but I want to try.  I have also given up comfort eating – trust me – if you knew how much cake I have been putting away recently you would be shocked.  Giving up comfort eating is for my health, and challenging how I cope with the difficult times.  Spiritually I am following a Lent book and from it I will put up my musings.  Perhaps I can develop some healthy spiritual behaviour as well for I am conscious in this busy world – work (even religious work) and family responsibilites drain the spiritual reserves. 

Jesus went into the desert and often went off by himself to pray as well as worked with thousands of people in need.  And if it is good enough for Jesus Christ, it has to be good enough for me. 

“Blessed are those who are poor in spirit; to them belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3 

Please share your Lent journeys with us if you wish. 

Loving God, we thank you for this time of penance and preparation as we prepare ourselves for Easter.  Whatever we have decided to do for Lent, help us be true to it – not just for our physical and mental health, but for our spiritual health.  May we use the learning curve to remember that we are yours and on you we rely.  And when we fail, lift us up and lead us forward.  Bring us into a deeper relationship with you.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.