Weekly Reflections for Lent

 

These are part of a series of weekly reflections throughout Lent, written by LCC Director Helen Lockwood to accompany the 40 days of Lent prayer calendar.

 

14 February: Fruit of the Ground

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11
"When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.’

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and God brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.’

You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house."

The picture presented here in Deuteronomy is a celebratory one. People bringing the first fruits of the harvest, engaged in thanksgiving, celebrating life and prosperity. It seems a strange image for the beginning of our Lenten journey. However as the people are encouraged to look back over their history we hear of their troubles. As a people they have experienced homelessness, displacement as refugees, suffering, slavery and oppression.

Despite their rebellion, God hears their cry for help, acts to rescue them and bring them to a safe place in a fertile land. They are reminded that God's action is for all, not just the wealthy and powerful. The tithing ritual depicted in this passage ensures that a tenth of the wealth of the land is given to the resident aliens, the orphans and the widows.

What a relief it must have been for those who were marginalised in that community to be sure they would be fed. They experienced the love and generosity of God through others in their community.

We too are part of this story. God hears us when we cry for help and sends people to help and support us. At other times we are the ones who can be the bearers of God's love to others, particularly those who are suffering, the homeless, the refugee, those experiencing domestic violence and children who are neglected and abused. You can join with Lutheran Community Care this Lent in thanking God for so many blessings and the privilege of responding to those who cry for help.

The image of the cross surrounded by the 40 bush tomatoes, reminds us of God's great sacrifice for us and the way in which we are now free to serve and bring new life in the desert places.

You can help to bring new life this Easter. Click here to make a donation that will make a real difference.


21 February: Where do I find a place of love and belonging? 

Luke 13:31-35

At that hour some Pharisees came and told Jesus,“Leave and get away from here, because Herod wants to kill you!”

He told them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Listen! I am driving out demons and healing today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will finish my work. But I must be on my way today, tomorrow, and the next day, because it’s not possible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones to death those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you people were unwilling! Look! Your house is left vacant to you. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘How blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Jesus knows he is heading to a dangerous place. There are people who want to hurt him, even the king wants to kill him. Jesus refuses to react in fear and continues to look after people, healing them and risking being hurt himself.

We are also given a picture of a regime which doesn't want to be challenged and which will lash out against anyone who brings a prophetic voice, with stoning and death. In the face of this Jesus responds by describing the desire he has to protect and love the very people who wish him harm and will soon kill him.

Instead of lashing out or running away, Jesus describes his feelings for those who wish him harm through the image of a mother hen gathering and protecting her chickens, an image which represents care and belonging. It reminds us of times when we have felt embraced and safe even in the face of danger and uncertainty. For many of us a friend, our family or a community can provide that sense of caring and strength for us.

Many of those who come to Lutheran Community Care for support have never had that sense of love and belonging and it can take a long time for them to feel they can accept the care and help we offer. Rejection and abuse cut deep and make it hard to trust anyone. It is sometimes hard to have our care and concern rejected but it can be even harder to respond in a Christ like way to those we see as our opponents or even enemies.

As we journey through Lent may we be able to cluster under the wings of the mother hen and regain our strength to continue to serve no matter what lies ahead of us. One day perhaps those we serve may also experience love, warmth and belonging as we have.


28 February - Bearing fruit with God's love

Luke 13:6-9

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

Do you sometimes feel that you are not being all you could be? That your life has not reached the potential that you dreamed about? When we are sick or recovering from loss, when our bodies show signs of aging, or our circumstances plunge us into despair, we resemble the fig tree in this parable. This tree is unable to be what it was created to be - a healthy tree, a place for birds to nest in its strong branches and a bearer of fruit. 

During this Lenten journey we have been contemplating the growth that can come out of the desert. The way in which God's love can breathe life into situations which seem dry and barren. In this story we find out that God's love goes so deep it doesn't cut us off, even when we are not bearing fruit, but forgives us and continues to nurture us and encourage our growth.

Many of the people who come to Lutheran Community Care for support are unable to be who they were created to be. Tragedy, unemployment, lack of family support or illness impact their lives and they need extra support, love and care. It can be tempting to give up when there is no 'quick fix' for problems both for individuals and for our society. Only the careful tending and nurturing of the ground can bring the fruits of dignity and hope. Thank you for working with us to reflect God's patient love to those in our community.


6 March - The Story of the Loving Father

Luke 15:11b-32

In reading this story we are taken on an emotional ride. Family stories often do that for us, whether our own struggles and joys or those of the people around us. This story of a father and his two sons gives us insight into a range of human emotions.

We see the rebellion and selfishness of the son as he demands immediate funds from his father and heads out into the world. We feel the pain of rejection and loss of the father as his son leaves home and disappears from his father's protection. We can identify with the jealousy and sense of unfairness of the older son, who has always done the right thing. We sense the fear of the younger son as his life spirals out of control and we watch a glimmer of hope appear as he remembers his family home. We are finally amazed at the forgiving love of the father and the scenes of reconciliation and lavish grace.

People who come to Lutheran Community Care for help are often experiencing intense emotions. Parents dealing with rebellious children, children living with violence and neglect, those who have lost all their money and have nowhere to live; these situations evoke strong feelings of fear, sadness and even despair. As our staff and volunteers work with people they try to reflect the steady love and acceptance of our loving God who is even more accepting than the father in the story.

When there is change and reconciliation coupled with care and support then joy can finally enter their world of emotions. In your life too, you bring God's love into the lives of those around you. LCC staff sometimes reflect on the writings of Henri Nouwen who understands the raft of human emotions and appropriate response when he writes,

'When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.'- Henri Nouwen ‘The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey’

Thank you for your prayers and support which enable our staff and volunteers to walk alongside people and bring joy into the lives of many.


13 March - Mary Anoints Jesus' Feet

John 12:1-8

A familiar setting for Jesus, sitting at a table with friends. It's not yet Passover but we know it is coming soon. But this is no ordinary group of people, one of them has been raised from the dead by Jesus, one extravagantly pours perfume over Jesus' feet and another is exposed as a thief. Both Jesus and Lazarus have received death threats but the disciples do not understand that Jesus is going to his death. These are the last precious days they have together and Jesus can't seem to get that through to them. Mary however seems to understand and wants to make the most of the time she has left with Jesus before she loses him, just as she had lost Lazarus.

When Jesus had asked to visit Lazarus' body after his death, Martha was concerned that it would have an odour because he had been in the grave so long. Jesus overcame all the obstacles, though, and restored Lazarus to life.

This time in the hospitable home on the outskirts of Jerusalem there is a totally different aroma; the wonderful fragrance of nard, a costly perfume that Mary is using in liberal quantities to anoint Jesus’ feet. She shows such generosity as she recognises Jesus' needs for comfort and understanding as he faces his last days. Smells often trigger memories. I wonder what memories that aroma would have brought back to Mary in the future?

Judas is identified as a thief and yet he is welcome at the table. He complains that the money spent on the ointment, roughly a labourer’s annual salary, should have been spent on the poor. You can’t love both Jesus and the poor, he seems to suggest. By her action Mary was showing that it is not an either/or question. Our love for the poor is shown by our love for Jesus, and our love for Jesus flows into our love for the poor.

Mary serves Jesus in a way that reflects how he will soon serve the entire world. If I have washed your feet, Jesus tells a protesting Peter, you are clean all over, forgiven before God and at peace. This is already Mary’s experience. Now, overcome by love, her fragrant offering beautifully anticipates the new commandment that Jesus gives his disciples—you and me—to love one another, including those in need, as an expression of God's overwhelming love for the world.

Thank you for sharing the Lenten journey with the staff and volunteers at Lutheran Community Care. Your support helps to show God's generous love to those who come to us for care and support. 


LCC Prayer Calendar 2016.pdf

> LCC Prayer Calendar 2016.pdf (1.56 MB)