parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

March 2019

Lenten Reflection and Application

 

The Christian season of Lent is an invitation to be transformed. Although the origins of the season of Lent do not go back to the early Church, over the first three to four centuries of the Church’s history, it became fixed as a time of penance and deep spiritual reflection that preceded the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The forty days preceding Easter (excluding Sundays) is set aside, partly in commemoration of Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness before his public ministry. You might have observed that the period of forty days is very significant in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. (Although it has mythic and religious significance, periods of 40 days are used in the measurement of the solar year).

Lent is not primarily about ‘giving up something’ but rather about filling ourselves with ‘more of God’. Reflecting on his own life, contemplative theologian Henri Nouwen vividly and personally portrays a key temptation in Lent, and alas throughout the year in our spiritual lives.

 

                   “In my own life I well know how hard it is for me to trust that I am loved, and to trust that the intimacy I most crave is there for me.  I most often live as if I have to earn love, do something noteworthy, and then perhaps I might get something in return. This attitude touches the whole question of what is called in the spiritual life, the “first love.” Do I really believe that I am loved first, independent of what I do or what I accomplish? This is an important question because as long as I think that what I most need I have to earn, deserve and collect by hard work, I will never get what I most need and desire, which is a love that cannot be earned, but that is freely given.”

(Renewed for Life)

 

Lent also reminds us that an intentional spiritual life is well enhanced by regular spiritual practices. This is something we have been speaking about and practising in our recent membership classes. I would like to offer a modified version of seven spiritual practices shared at a Stewardship Conference in Tennessee at which I was a keynote speaker some years ago.  It is entitled ‘Finding Hope in Hard Times”.

Count your blessings  (please read: Matthew 6:25-33)

Take action: write down all the things for which you are thankful. Share this gratitude list with someone. Set aside time each day to thank God for all the ways you and the world are blessed.

Pause for reflection: in addition to being thankful, we can acknowledge our anxieties. What worries do we have about money and security. Write them down and share them with someone you trust. Take them to God in prayer.

Count your cash (please read: Luke 14:28-30)

Take action: if you don’t already, review your monthly income and spending. If needed, get some help with budgeting and debt advice – www.InChargeCanada.ca

Pause for reflection: what does this exercise reveal about your priorities (family priorities)?  Might there be an invitation to change the way you allocate your money? Pray about this and remember the teachings of Jesus about a generous disposition to others and to the way we use our money.

Growing in Contentment (please read: 1 Timothy 6:7-10)

Take action: take a sober and honest look at the abundance in your life. It is more than financial and material things; it is all that sparks joy and delight. Sometimes this is overshadowed by an unchecked desire to overspend. Resist the lure of overspending by asking God for restraint and covenanting with someone you trust to be mutually accountable.

Pause for reflection: in what areas of your life do you find it easiest to be content? Where are the temptations? Learning and growing in contentment is one of the most significant disciplines of faith we can achieve. Contentment reduces our desire to spend just for the sake of spending. Contentment acts as a cushion between our spending and our income.

Choose a Simpler Lifestyle (please read: Luke 9:1-4)

Take action: Examine what clutters your life? What worries and expectations are overwhelming you? What about your schedule? What would give you more time to do the things you enjoy as well as volunteering and serving more? Are you spending your time, thoughts and money on things that are consistent with your Christ-like values?

Pause for reflection: Why do you think that Jesus linked the sending out of the disciples to living without the clutter of possessions? How might we share the possessions that we do have?

Keep on Giving (please read: 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8)

Take action: It is important that we continue (or begin) to give generously, because we need to give. This is a human as well as a Christian necessity. Made in God’s self-giving image we are created to give and we become impoverished of body, mind and soul when we do not give. Review your giving in the context of your income. What percentage of what God enables you to earn/receive are you giving back to God through financial contributions to the ministry of our congregation?

Pause for reflection: The scripture passage above challenges us to give cheerfully. One way of increasing the joy found from giving is to become deeply aware of how our purpose in life and faith is meant to be aligned with God’s purpose for Creation, which is characterized by generosity, right relationships and the faithful stewarding of all we have and are. Parkdale United needs generous financial contributions and is committed to making good and faithful use of them in the service of God’s mission.

Helping to Grow Generous Communities (please read Acts 2:44-47)

Take action: I am sure you have noticed how crisis situations bring people and neighbourhoods together. Those with a willingness and resources to help, often engage in new ways with those having deep physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Spend some time getting to know the needs of your neighbours, your colleagues, and the people you encounter every day. Where do you see a need? What can you do to help? What can you offer? What are you willing to receive in the way of help and support from others?

Pause for reflection: In what further ways can we as a community of faith here at Parkdale United share with one another and the neighbourhood in which we find ourselves? Our property development conversations with each other and with our community neighbours have revealed a desire to work more closely together towards the common good. How does our understanding of the sharing of the early Church shape how we give today?

A Financial Downturn Can result in a Spiritual Upturn: (please read Colossians 2: 6-7)

Pause for reflection: What does it mean to be “rooted in Christ”? How might tough times bring you closer to God and to the way of Christ? Spend some time in prayer and meditate on Scripture. What other spiritual practices might you take up to strengthen your relationship with God? Might you need to be more regular in communal worship? In what areas of your life do you need God’s nourishment?

Final Action: Look back over these seven practices. Make a note of new insights and what you have decided to do differently. Find resources to help you while you set aside time each day in prayer to be led to wise choices and right actions. To God be the glory.

A Prayer you may find helpful:

 

          Loving and merciful God, we give thanks for your abounding generosity of grace, love and faith. Be pleased to meet us in our fear and anxiety and hear our prayer: be a tower of strength amidst the shifting sands, and a light in the darkness; help us receive your gift of peace, as well as your gifts of challenge and new insights, and fix our hearts where true joys are to be found. Fix also our minds where new resolve is imagined and our hands where new ways of justice and generosity are undertaken, we pray in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

A Blessed Lenten journey to you all.

Your fellow pilgrim,

 

Anthony