Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Lent Ponderings (page 2 of 2)

Guest Post: Lost in Suffering

by Erin Davidson 

Read Isaiah 50:4-9a.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comObedient, loyal and steadfast, they’re all big, meaningful words, words that Jesus embodies.  They’re words for us as humans to strive to live and grow into.  As we move through Lent, we experience Jesus’ journey to the cross.  It wasn’t a pleasant one and no matter how much God could have told him about what would happen, Jesus, as a human, wouldn’t have been fully prepared.  Yet throughout this journey of suffering, Jesus remains obedient, loyal and steadfast.  Isaiah writes in this passage about a suffering servant, whether we interpret this servant as the children of Israel waiting to be delivered, or Jesus towards the end of his life, it’s a journey of obedience and God’s steadfastness.

In Isaiah 50:1-3 God essentially asks rhetorically, “Did you really think I have forgotten you?  Did you really think that I’m unable or unwilling to deliver you from this?”  To which God then responds in verses 4-9 that a Savior will come.  Not only will this Savior come but God details some of the suffering he will have to endure.  Throughout it all, this Savior is obedient and loyal to God because he knows God will stay with him the entire time.

Sometimes we get lost in our own “suffering,” forgetting that God is always present with us on our journey.  I cannot imagine being tasked with the role that Jesus had; I also cannot imagine being such a faithful disciple.  However, Isaiah reminds me that God prepares disciples, giving us a “well-instructed tongue” to know the words to use, open ears to listen to those around us.  God equips us with everything needed for the journey ahead and in turn, we must listen and follow.

This year as you read through the stories of Lent, look for examples of obedience, loyalty, and steadfastness. Examine the characters of the story, the words they use, or when they don’t talk. Use their stories to guide how we live our lives as disciples.

Erin B. Davidson is a full time social worker and part time Day Camp Director at Camp Hanover in Mechanicsville, VA.

Guest Post: Jesus Grieved

by Rev. Doug Sasser

Read John 11:1-45.

When I was three, my mother died in an automobile accident.  My father was a college president at the time, and the chairman of his board of directors advised him to get remarried as soon as possible, maintaining that the college needed a first lady and I needed a mother.  Within a year of my mother’s death, my father began courting a woman he would soon marry.  This marriage was not harmonious and I recall frequently hearing them arguing with each other.  After seven years, their marriage ended in divorce.

Although many factors led to divorce, my father’s decision to get remarried so soon after being widowed may not have been healthy for him and his family.  He was given very bad advice from his board chair.  Psychologists agree grief involves a long emotional process.  We must be able to sit with our pain and allow ourselves to heal slowly over time.  When we try to pretend our grieving is done by starting a new relationship, this typically leads to emotional turmoil later.

Once, when I lost a loved one, my friends at church said to me, “This is probably not painful for you because of your faith in God.”  The opposite is true.  God made us and understands what goes on inside of us when we grieve.

The Jews understood no one should have to grieve alone.  Others from the community surrounded Mary as she grieved the death of her brother Lazarus.  Our text describes how the comforters all accompanied Mary as she went outside of the house to greet Jesus.  Some of those gathered noticed Jesus weeping and acknowledged how much he loved this family.  Jesus cries with them just as those who surrounded Mary had.

Others expect Jesus to offer a quick fix by saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  Martha takes on an accusatory tone when she says to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  We may ask ourselves why the Son of God stood around blubbering instead of raising Lazarus on the spot.  Elsewhere in the scriptures, Jesus healed people without even being physically present.

I believe Jesus responded the way he did because he understood the grieving process.  Lazarus is not resurrected in this passage; he is resuscitated.  He will die again someday.  His family shall grieve his loss for longer than three days.  Jesus understood grief is painful and it takes time.  Through the miracle of the incarnation, God became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ.  Jesus took on humanity in all of its intricacies.  He knew what it meant to feel pain, sorrow, and grief.  Jesus is showing Lazarus’ family how to grieve.

During the season of Lent, this is especially evident to us.  Through the scriptures, we make the trek down the mountain with Jesus and the three disciples on Transfiguration Sunday.  Then we make the journey with Jesus and the disciples as they travel to Jerusalem.  Along the way, we stop as Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem.  Tension builds as Jesus confronts his enemies after turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.  A bittersweet mood hangs over Jesus and the disciples during the Last Supper.  Jesus is deserted in the garden of Gethsemane when those who vowed to defend him to the death an hour earlier run under the cover of darkness.  While on the cross Jesus expresses the ultimate feelings of rejection when he confesses feeling abandoned by God.  Even after Jesus died on the cross the scripture describes how some disciples hide behind locked doors for fear of Jesus’ enemies.  Other disciples expressed their bewilderment over the death of Jesus with a “stranger” they met on the road to Emmaus.

If we are too quick to rush past the sadness of Holy Week and jump to the empty tomb we are not being true to the witness of the scripture.  Also, we are not being true to ourselves as humans.  We cannot appreciate the joy and amazement of Easter morning if we have not experienced the events of Holy Week.  Perhaps this is what Jesus was trying to teach Mary and Martha.  Before new life can be celebrated, mourning must occur.  Join those who surrounded Mary in this text.  Allow yourself to grieve, feel pain and cry.  When we allow ourselves space and time to feel pain, we can properly heal.  Jesus Christ, who sits with us and cries with us, is also the one who will raise us to new life.

Guest Post: Dusting of Control

by Rev. Megan J. Saucier

Read Psalm 95.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comThere’s nothing like a nice big snow to throw off your schedule.  Yesterday, Lynchburg received just that.  The weather report shared that it would just be a “dusting” or that it would “only stick to the grass,” but that is not what happened.  The snow kept falling and falling and eventually covered the roads, parking lots, and cars.  I had gone to work to prep for worship and get some other things done.  By 11, I was getting nervous that this was way more than I was comfortable driving in.  It just kept snowing and snowing.  I decided it was best if I went home and finished my work from there.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had snow this winter in our town.  In fact, we’ve had an unusual amount of snow.  Each time it happens, schools are cancelled, work is delayed, and some of us (myself included) rejoice in a quiet day at home.  But those snow days have added up.  All the delays mean that the work or school must be completed at a different time.

Psalm 95 invites us to worship God and acknowledge that God is in charge.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,
    and the dry land, which his hands have formed.” (v. 4-5)

The mountains, the valleys, the sea, the dry land, the snow, the rain are all GOD’S.  Like Psalm 95, snow in the south is a reminder that we are NOT in control.  We are NOT in charge.  Our reactions are evidence of how we feel.  Typically, that means complaining.  “It’s not supposed to snow in the spring.”  “I’m tired of the snow.”  “I’m behind in my work.”  “This means more school days.”  What we are saying is that things aren’t going OUR way.

Psalm 95 reminds us who is really the boss of the universe.  If we really think about it, this is a relief!  Thank goodness we are not responsible for it all.  Thank goodness God has things taken care of.

Today, let your heart be turned to praise as you remember that you are not in control.

Rev. Megan Saucier is the Associate Pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church, and Jason’s wife.

Guest Post: Grace!

by Rev. Charlie Baber

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comCenter With Prayer: 

Creator of birth and rebirth, remove the veil from my heart that keeps me from knowing you more perfectly.  Christ, lifted up on the cross of death to heal all who look upon you and believe, strengthen my heart to accept your Word as transforming truth in my life. Wild and untamed Holy Spirit, catch me up in your movements that I may go where you send me. Amen.

Read the Scripture: John 3:1-17.

I recently drew a comic about God’s love and a Methodist understanding of the Way of Salvation. It’s also based on my experience with animal rescue and fostering.  Prevenient grace is the Holy Spirit at work in every single person, beckoning us all to God.  Since all my students take Spanish and not Latin or French, I told them to call it “Pre-Vamonos” grace: “Everybody, Let’s GO!” It’s like the porch of a house, inviting you to come in. Justifying grace is the turning point, where we recognize our profound need for God, repent and trust in Christ.  It’s “Just-if-I’d” never sinned, and the faithfulness of Christ fills up and covers over our faithlessness.  It’s like the door into the house where the party is going on. Sanctifying grace is a life in Christ, growing to be more and more like God as we grow closer to God.  It’s the whole party house.  But we can make some pretty terrible mistakes, and turn our backs on God.  Fortunately, God’s grace is always first, always going before us, always calling us back.  We love because God first loved us.

Take a moment to read the comic below.  Reflect on the ways God has fostered salvation in your life and rescued you.  Then go forth in your salvation and love the world that God has so loved…

55WB

Rev. Charlie Baber is a deacon serving at Highland United Methodist in Raleigh, North Carolina. Charlie has a weekly comic-blog called Wesley Bros.

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