As Lent draws to a close, I thought I would share some highlights from the guide I used this years that was recommended by a new friend, Jessica - “40 Days of Decrease - A different kind of hunger. A different kind of fast by Alicia Britt Chole (pronounced show-lee). Each features a themed reflection about Jesus' journey "cross-ward," a fast and a reading from John's gospel. Unusual, refreshing, intriguing, and sobering.
Days 34 & 35: Seven distinct groups surrounded Jesus at His crucifixion:
1) passersby who hurled insults;
2) unnamed disciples who observed from a distance;
3) watchers who occasionally taunted;
4) rulers - chief priests, teachers of the law and elders;
5) named disciples - his mother, mother's sister, and Mary Magdalene and the apostle John;
6) the two thieves crucified beside him and
7) the soldiers for whom Jesus was their job, not their God.
That five of the seven groups incessantly mocked and taunted Jesus prompted this caution by the author, "Though occasionally accomplished constructively, criticism is often a cowardly act. Criticism knows a little, assumes a lot and airs judgments with conviction."
Today, fast criticism. "Seek to know more, assume less, and air prayers" instead of judgments. (pages 177-180)
Day 33: To fast willful sin is not a simplistic call to stop sinning. No, this is a sincere call for us to start loving Jesus to a degree that compels us to walk away from sin where we can and get help where we cannot....Savior, am I caressing anything you were crucified for? If so, I repent: forgive me, heal me, send help to me, and strengthen my love for You. When I am tempted, may I see Your cross, remember Your cost, and let love "bind my wandering heart" to You. (page 175)
Day 30: Earthquakes reveal faultlines that were previously unknown. We think we know our strengths and weaknesses but even though we don't, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves - like how we predicted Judas' and Peter's betrayals. But to falter when you think or even pledge we won't is HUMAN. So when the ground shakes and 'we fall into our own disillusionment, we need to remember to get back up, receive forgiveness and call upon our newly acquired humility to strengthen others.' Today's fast: self confidence. (from pages 154-155)
Day 27: Recall the Last Supper scene described in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus mentioned that one the apostles would betray Him.
“Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Judas inquired. To which Jesus replied, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:21, 25)
Judas’ betrayal was a manifestation of satanic opposition. We expect satanic opposition from the world. But when it comes from around the table, it takes our breath away.” (page 136)
Having been on the business end of betrayal from around the table on a few occasions, the weight of her remark settled in my chest. I can testify that not only does it take your breath away but getting back to breathing normally again can take a long, long while.
That Jesus forgave, readily and unconditionally paved the way for me to do likewise.
Day 25: "Is there another way?" asked Jesus of his Father, God, praying, deeply distressed that fateful night in Gethsemane. Along with, "If so, I want to take it." Three times he asked. (See Matthew 26: 39, 42, 44)
Indeed, "Is there another way for mankind to be reconciled to God?" queried Chole.
"Within our global culture, it sounds enlightened and egalitarian to believe in many ways to God, which makes wrestling with this text all the more critical."
We moderns who revisit this moment on the other side of it know how the question was answered.
"Clearly, by the events that follow, Father's answer was 'no' - another way did not exist. Jesus was and is 'The Way' (John 14:6)."
Fortunately, the Father's "no" was Jesus' "yes.".
Day 21: "Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments."
This remark regarded Jesus stating his heart was "troubled" as he shared deep thoughts about his "hour" that was soon to arrive. Although troubled, he was nevertheless obedient to see the redemptive plan to its earth-shaking conclusion.(See John 12:20-28) ...[from pages 104-105]
From Day 17 - Twice, Jesus cleared the temple of merchants and moneychangers. "Jesus no doubt witnessed many injustices during His life on earth, but He did not turn over many tables....Taking action because there is a need is a very different motivation than taking action because there is a God. In addition to being exhausting, the former is led by what our eyes see and what our hearts feel. The latter is led by loving listening and dependence-inspired discipline...Said Dr. Beth Grant, friend of the author, 'Choose carefully what you are willing to die for because you can only die once.'" [from pages 79-82]
From Day 13: I am challenged by today's fast: Stinginess. "...seek an opportunity to be irrationally lavish toward someone who cannot possibly return the favor."
Day 8: Today's fast, Fixing it is for life's many miscarried miracles, the "this could only be from God" openings that later close leaving us to wonder, "What gives, Lord?"
Lazarus, raised from the dead, later died again; a long-awaited pregnancy that ends in miscarriage; fired from a promising job....We panic, search for explanations and "scurry clumsily about to prop up God's sagging reputation." (page 34)
Day 9: Fast rationalism - the belief that reason is king. Our lack of understanding cannot sabbotage the power or the purpose of His voice. It is not possible to prove with the mind what is born in the Spirit. (pages 38-39)
Day 1: Fast Lent As Project. Instead, consider Lent as less a project and more a sojourn. A sojourn is a 'temporary stay at a place,' And a 'stay' is about presence, not productivity. For the next forty days, fast measuring your "success" statistically... Instead, invest your energy in seeking to remain present to the sacred history of Jesus' walk to the cross....enter Lent as experience. (page 3)
Prayer: Lord, you are truly amazing, unpredictable, striking, scary and so very attractive. Thank you for coming to rescue me and opening life and eternity for me and all who truly seek you.