Ash Wednesday

ASH WEDNESDAY – February 17th

Scripture

Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 51:1-17; 2nd Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Reflection

This is a powerful call to us from the prophet Isaiah as we enter this period of Lent – often a period of fasting for many Christians, remembering Christ’s journey to the cross. But this is a reminder that what is called for is not a fast for 40 image4days from soda, or candy – but rather a fast from the injustice that we see in the world. It is just that kind of fast that the WASH for Lent intiative is calling the church to.  To use this time to remember Christ’s call to respond to those in need in our world, and provide them with basic access to water and sanitation.

The first step, as our Psalm reminds us, is to remember our complicity in the crisis – our own overuse of water, and the impact that has. It is to approach the crisis not thinking we have all the answers, but with a broken and contrite heart, open to the spirit of God, through whom we can respond to the needs of people aroud the world. It is in God that our hope rests. It is there where our treasure resides, as our text from Matthew reminds us. And now is the time to use that treasure, to use that spirit of God which flows through all of us, to use our salvation to respond to the needs of those suffering from a lack of water and sanitation around the world.

At a time when 1.1 billion people in our world lack safe water, 2.6 billion lack the security and dignity of a simple latrine, and estimated 5,000people die every day from preventable, water-related diseases – it is time to live into our call. It is time as a church to respond. To give an offering, to offer a sacrifice, to fast so that others may have. May this be the spirit with which we enter into this Lenten season.

Questions

  1. What would you be willing to sacrifice in order that others may have access to water and sanitation this Lenten season?  What could you give up that would enable you to aid an organization in bringing WASH to a community in poverty?
  2. Of what do you have to confess to God as you enter this season? In what ways have you been complicit in the water crisis?

Action

Decide what you can give up this Lenten season, and commit to giving the amount you would spend on that each week to an organization bringing WASH to communities throuhgout the world. Click here for a list of organizations you can donate to.

By Jordan Blevins

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1st Sunday in Lent

1st SUNDAY IN LENT – Feb. 21st, 2010

Scripture

Deuteronomy 26:1-11  •  Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16  •  Romans 10:8b-13  •  Luke 4:1-13

Reflection

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We live under the protection of the Lord. This is one of the resounding themes of all of these passages. But there is another message in these words – one that speaks to the value, and the true ownership, of the land and waters of the world in which we live. These are gifts of God – for which we are called to be grateful, and to give back from. In the passage from Deuteronomy we see this most clearly – as the Israelites are called to give back to God the fruits of the land. The very things that bring us life – including the waters of this world, are gifts from God, meant to sustain us.

What does it say as we enter this Lenten season that so many on this planet now go without those very gifts, which God gave the world for sustenance?  That we have allowed a global water crisis to come to be? Nearly a billion people worldwide lack clean water, and more than 2.1 million people, most of them children, die each year from water and sanitation related diseases. We have not been good stewards of the water God has blessed us with. How can we allow this to happen in a world to which God declared in Deuteronomy 26:11, “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 invitation this Lenten season is to respond, and share with the world again the bounty of goodness God provides. To ensure that there is no one in this world who goes without clean water and sanitation. As you continue your walk with Christ toward the cross, consider the promise of God to provide – and walk with Christ to make those provisions.

Questions

  1. What is the call of our faith in response to the global water crisis?  What is a faithful response?
  2. What does it mean to “celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you”?

Action

Begin the Significant Sacrifice series from Lifewater. Click here to download it, and make the global water crisis, and a faithful response, a focus of your Lenten walk.

Continue to look for ways you can be involved in providing clean water and sanitation by working with one of the organizations listed on the right.

By Jordan Blevins

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2nd Sunday in Lent

2nd Sunday in Lent – February 28, 2010

Scripture

Genesis 12:1-4a • Psalm 121 • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 • John 3:1-17 or Matthew 17:1-9

Reflection

Do you believe that God intends to fix the aspects of this world that are broken? For example, we know that 860 million people globally are currently without access to clean water (JMP 2008). In Isaiah 41:17-18 it says “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys…” Through Scripture, God reminds us of His promises, and on occasion we get to see those promises being fulfilled. In difficult situations such as the above example, I find it challenging to believe the vision that God has planted will actually come to fruition. Psalm 27:13 and 14 inspire my prayers; “God, help me to believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, in the land where _I_ am living. But I need Your courage to be strong and believe…Yes, I will wait for the Lord.”

In Genesis 15 we read about Abram’s discussion with God concerning the fulfillment of His covenant. God had promised Abram that He would make him into a great nation, and that He would bless all the peoples of the earth through him. But in order for that to happen Abram needed an heir. And he and Sarai remained childless. Abram had started to lose hope in God’s promise. Instead of trying to reason with Abram, God casts a vision for him in verse 5. “See all those stars in the night sky, Abram? That is how immense the number of your descendants will be. Will you trust that I have this plan under control? Will you trust me?”

Abram faced a dilemma. Would he choose to believe that God would keep his promise of giving him an heir, thus

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making him the father of a great nation? Or would he choose to “help” God by taking steps on his own to make this happen? It had been about 10 years since God had made the original promise to Abram…why was it taking Him so long to fulfill it?

My human wisdom tells me that I know how to fix this water access problem. If people only knew how to build protected well systems, if only people would relocate to areas that had reliable access to water, if only governments would do their part and provide access to water for their citizens. But my understanding is limited. God’s vision for the solution is so much grander (i.e. remember the stars in the sky). We have a God who promises to redeem and reconcile a broken world to Himself. And the redemption He brings to the broken things of this world is often through relationship with Him and His people. As we are well aware, relationships take time. Relationships are messy. The results they bring can be hard to quantify. But in the end the outcome is everlasting.

Questions

  1. In what ways do you see the goodness of the Lord in the land where you are living?
  2. What does a world that has complete water access for everyone look like? What is your part in that story? What is God’s part?

Action

Write out your description of a world where everyone has access to clean water. Think about what the impact will be for developing nations on disease, family labor burden, and farmland production. Investigate organizations that help provide access to water for people in need. Consider how you might partner with them in their work.

By Julie Hettinger

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3rd Sunday in Lent

3rd SUNDAY IN LENT – March 7th, 2010

Scripture

Isaiah 55:1-9 • Psalm 63:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 • Luke 13:1-9

Reflection

“Sir, let it alone one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.”  We find this message at the end of all our scripture readings for this week in Lent. They all call for steadfast devotion to God – to allow God to fill us, to make us whole, and to quench our thirst. But from the Gospel reading comes the reminder that in order for things of this world to bear fruit, work is required. If we go to the fig tree, expecting God to provide for us fruit from it, without providing it with the nutrients it needs, the fruit will not come.

We are living in a time of global water crisis – and it is one that is largely created by humanity. Those who have water have hoarded it – or taken it from those unable to cultivate it for themselves, to the point where we are creating droughts, floods, and famine, due to the lack of water. People throughout the world are thirsting – and thirsting for water of this world. It is water that doesn’t come without the work – without the work of restoring the balance inherent in the God’s Creation, in seeking to live in a way that all may have, and conserving the water we use. This is the hole and manure the gardener is putting around the fig tree in Jesus parable.

Our scriptures remind us that God quenches the thirst of all who come – God is the spiritual food, drink, and nourishment for all of Creation. Isaiah reminds us, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price”, and our Psalm, “So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.” This is the spiritual nourishment needed to believe that a transformation of the global water crisis is possible. But it is one that takes work. Paul reminds us not to “put Christ to the test”, and Christ reminds us of the work needed for the spiritual nourishment God provides to bear fruit.

The world is crying out for water, sanitation, and hygiene. Are you willing to dig the hole, and spread the manure?

Questions

  1. What does it mean to be filled by the spiritual nourishment of God?
  2. What work of digging the hole and spreading the manure can you do?

Action

Take a look at your personal water usage. In what ways can it be conserved, to be a better steward of God’s Creation?

Continue to work through the Significant Sacrifice series and look for ways you can be involved in providing clean water and sanitation by working with one of the organizations listed on the right.

By Jordan Blevins

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4th Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 14, 2010

Scripture

1 Samuel 16:1-13 • Psalm 23 • Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41

Reflection

I love the progression of reconciliation described in the parable of the Prodigal Son and throughout the psalmist’s ponderings. I’m sure many of us have lived a high life in a similar vein to that of the Prodigal; we’ve worked hard, made good money, and then enjoyed the fruit of our labor. We think, “I deserve it. After all, I worked hard for it.”

But then tragedy hits – unemployment, divorce, a parent or child are diagnosed with a life-stealing illness – and all of a sudden we feel like we’re drowning in a sea of despair. Try as we might, there is nothing we can do to make everything “all right” again. But what if in that moment, we come to our senses…as some might say, we experience a “Come to Jesus” moment? Instead of spinning our wheels while trying to make things better, we confess that we can’t handle it on our own. We need help…we need what our compassionate Heavenly Father has to offer.

After ending up in a Jewish son’s nightmare – starving while squalid pigs are becoming fat – the young man in Luke 15 comes to his senses. He hatches a plan to regain access to his father’s resources, a partial reconciliation at best. Will it work?

In a beautiful manner our loving God is like the prodigal’s father. Notice that in this story it is the father, not the son, who re-establishes the broken relationship, repairing it so that it exceeds even its former glory. In Psalm 32:2 the psalmist notes (I believe with relief), “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him.” He recognized that as long as he “kept silent” and “covered up [his] iniquity” (vs. 3 and 5), his “body wasted away through [his] groaning all day long.” But once he acknowledged his sin to God, admitting that he couldn’t handle the crush of it all on his own, then he experienced reconciliation through forgiveness. The guilt disappeared. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (vs.1) Reconciliation for Christians goes beyond forgiving iniquity, of course, and includes restoring right relationships on a number of levels – including one’s relationship with creation itself.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 answers the question, “Now what?” Now that we’ve been reconciled back to God, God invites us to participate in the reconciliation journey of others as ministers of reconciliation.  For example, imagine a parent in a developing county cradling a deathly ill child in their lap, a child sick with diarrhea and dehydration. While not pleasant to talk about in polite company, it is nonetheless a necessary topic as diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhea. (WHO, 2009) The needless death of a child from a preventable and treatable disease is a jarring tragedy in a parent’s life. It becomes a critical incident that may force them to be face to face with the need to change how they live and how they relate to their environment (creation). Knowing that God’s intentions for the world are that “never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days” (Isaiah 65:20) we can be confident in knowing that God’s view of these deaths is the same as our and the parents’ view – as tragic, and something that needs to end. It’s a signal to the family and to us as potential responders that relationships are out of whack, and that they need to be restored in alignment with God’s plans.

God invites us to be a part of their reconciliation journey. God doesn’t only care about reconciliation between people and God, He desires holistic reconciliation – people with God, people with themselves, people with their neighbors, and people with creation.

When people enter the reconciliation journey through a faith-based organization, they show these parents that they can be reconciled with creation and have a transformed relationship with water. For example, the parents can learn which water sources are polluted, and how to purify that water when they get it home, so that their children avoid getting diarrhea from drinking contaminated water. They can start practicing the newly valued behavior of washing their hands with soap before eating and after relieving themselves in order to prevent diarrhea in the children that they feed. They can find out where to obtain and how to mix up an oral rehydration solution to treat their child who’s come down with diarrhea in order to prevent dehydration. And they can visit their neighbors and share this good news of how to help their children survive. All of these small and basic steps contribute to the reconciliation process, transforming the family’s relationship with water and with creation, giving life instead of stealing it. And in the process of being a minister of reconciliation, I think we are transformed a bit more too.

As Chris Rice sings, “Come to Jesus…and live”.

Questions

  1. How have you bargained with God in order to regain His favor? Is that what is really necessary?
  2. Think back to a time when you experienced the full cycle of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation – What does reconciliation feel like?
  3. In what ways does your relationship with creation need reconciliation?
  4. What can you do to be a minister of reconciliation to the poor who suffer from lack of clean water?

Action

Thank God for the gift of clean water and pursue your role as a minister of reconciliation to the poor.

By Julie Hettinger

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5th Sunday in Lent

5th Sunday in Lent – March 21st, 2010

Scripture

5th Sunday in Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21 • Psalm 126 • Philippians 3:4b-14 • John 12:1-8

Reflection

We believe we can transform this world through faith. Because of our faith in God, who we know through Jesus Christ, we know that far greater things are possible than we could possibly imagine. We believe in ways through the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43), that those who go out to sow seed will return with its fruits (Psalm 126), and of resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3 and John 12). We believe in all of these things because we believe in the power of God to use us to transform the world around us.

But this is not a faith that just stands around, and relishes in what God can do. It is a faith that joins God in doing the work, in seeking transformation. Of being so blown away by the way life has been moved that we can’t help but jump in and bring this kind of transformation to everyone we come into contact with. It is a faith that declares God’s praise (Isaiah 43), that rejoices in what the LORD has done (Psalm 126), that relishes in the gift of eternal life (Philippians 3), and that anoints Jesus feet (John 12).

In light of the plight of millions throughout the world struggling with the global water crisis – struggling to have clean water to drink, and adequate sanitation and hygiene, how are we to proclaim the transformation inherent in knowing God?  I suggest that the question should be, whose feet should we be anointing?  Who should we be bowing down to serve? Jesus reminds us that the poor will always be with us – and it is in the poor that we find the face of God. The face of those crying out to be anointed. To be served.

Look out at the world around you – where do you see the need to work for transformation?  Do you see the feet of Christ, sitting in front of you, waiting to be anointed? In Jesus Christ, whose feet Mary anointed, God did a new thing. God brought a way in the wilderness and streams to the desert. Have the faith to see this new way – and work to bring its transformation into the world around you.

Questions

  1. What kind of transformation do you witness to through the power of God in the world around you?
  2. What do you see that transformation calling you to do?

Action

Attempt to eat at home every day this week. With the money you save, contribute to ending the global water crisis by getting involved with one of the organizations listed on the right.

Continue to work through the Significant Sacrifice series.

By Jordan Blevins

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Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday – March 28th, 2010

Scripture

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 • Luke 19:28-40

Reflection

Palm Sunday is a reminder, on the eve of Holy Week, that the Kingdom of God is here!  The Kingdom of God is among us! Imagine this event – here comes the son of a carpenter, riding a colt – and having Hosannas shouted at him! What an amazing scene. And, it is not just that they are proclaiming Hosanna – with this declaration they are also proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom. It is named here a couple of ways – the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. They are singing the praises of the fulfillment of God’s promises!

This marks the turn of what this whole season means – what we have been preparing our hearts and minds for. That the coming of God’s kingdom is marked by our own inability to overcome the brokenness of the relationships of this world – to such an extent that Christ is crucified. But this week, this week – God is here!  God has fulfilled the promise of the coming of the kingdom. It is now ours to live into. So much of our Lenten reflection has led up to this point – reminding us that the promises of God are not empty – they are fulfilled. But our faith in their being fulfilled does not rid us of work to do. Indeed – it means there is much to do.

We are called to live into restorative relationships the same way Jesus Christ did in this world. To bring the world around us into right relationship with God. This is what the kingdom is – God coming to be in this world, to live in relationship with it. And as the church, we are called to embody that. In the decisions we make, in the work we support, from feeding the hungry, to working to alleviate poverty, to provide shelter for those without homes. And, yes, to work to provide adequate water and sanitation to those who lack it. These are marks of the Kingdom – in much the same way that Christ riding in on a donkey, having Hosannas shouted his way, was.

Questions

  1. What Hosannas are you shouting on this Palm Sunday? What marks of the Kingdom do you see around you?
  2. In what ways can you participate in the continued building of that Kingdom? In what way can your life, and your decisions, be that kind of mark?

Action

Find a reason to cry out Hosanna this week. Look around you, and see Christ riding into your life. And then be that mark for others – live out that promise, and build the kingdom. Getting involved with an organization to your right is an excellent way to do that.

Continue to work through the Significant Sacrifice series.

By Jordan Blevins

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