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Lent 2024: Week 6 - Death

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

 

“‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

 

Meditating on death, at its very core, is morbid and depressing. We mourn, weep, and lament death, sure—but what is the point of taking a week (at some level six weeks) to meditate and reflect deeply on it? Is that necessary or helpful? Wouldn’t it be better to keep things positive?

 

For the Christian, death is not exclusively bad news because we have a clear view of the grander story. Death isn’t the end; it is a movement of the plot that ultimately gives way to the glory of resurrection. Death is no longer a bitter pill to swallow; it has been swallowed up in victory, it has lost its sting. Death is the harbinger of good news for the person who is shaped by God’s story. Meditating on death is a means toward understanding the grander story of the gospel.

 

Amid this grander story, the reality of death confronts and challenges us—it reminds us that life is frail and fleeting, and it beckons us to examine our daily life. 

 

To be a Christian means to have located your identity, your worth, your value in Jesus—he has become your treasure. Death, therefore, serves as a constant reminder of where to place our treasure: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).


From “Journey to the Cross” by Will Walker and Kendal Haug

 

Prayer Practice: Fasting & Preparation for Good Friday and Easter Sunday

 

Fasting is not a magical way to manipulate God into doing our will; it’s not a way to get God to be an accomplice to our plans. Neither is fasting a spiritual way to lose weight or control others. Fasting clears us out and opens us up to intentionally seeking God’s will and grace in a way that goes beyond normal habits of worship and prayer. While fasting, we are one on one with God, offering him the time and attentiveness we might otherwise be giving to eating, shopping or watching television.

 

Fasting is an opportunity to lay down an appetite—an appetite for food, for media, for shopping. This act of self-denial may not seem huge—it’s just a meal or a trip to the mall—but it brings us face to face with the hunger at the core of our being. Fasting exposes how we try to keep empty hunger at bay and gain a sense of well-being by devouring creature comforts. Through self-denial we begin to recognize what controls us. Our small denials of the self show us just how little taste we actually have for sacrifice or time with God.

 

This truth is not meant to discourage us. It’s simply the first step in realizing that we have to lay down our life in order to find it again in God. Brian Taylor puts it like this in Becoming Christ: “Self-denial is profoundly contemplative for it works by the process of human subtraction and divine addition.” Deny yourself a meal, and when your stomach growls “I’m hungry,” take a moment to turn from your emptiness to the nourishment of “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Feed on Jesus, the bread of life. Skip the radio or TV for a day and become aware of how fidgety you are when you aren’t being amused or diverted. Then dodge the remote, and embrace Jesus and his words: “my food…is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Taste the difference between what truly nourishes the soul—the living bread and the life-giving water—and what is simply junk food.

 

Fasting reminds us that we care about “soul” things. We care about the church. We care about the world. We care about doing God’s will. Thus we willingly set aside a little comfort so we can listen and attend to the voice and nourishment of God alone. For God can give us grace and comfort and nurture we cannot get on our own.


From “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook” by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

 

This week’s practice is fasting and prayer. And although many people consider abstaining from media or coffee or shopping as “fasting,” we believe that this is different than fasting from food. Food is a basic need. We cannot survive without food. Fasting at its basic meaning means not eating (that’s why the first meal of the day is called “breakfast” — breaking fast). Fasting reminds us of our human dependency, and points us to our Creator who is the one who sustains us. As we enter this final week of Lent, we want to practice fasting together.  Here are a few suggestions on how to practice this week:

  • Fast at least one meal this week. Spend your mealtime in prayer. When you feel hungry, turn your attention to God and feast on his words. Remember that Jesus said he is the Bread of Life. Use this time to prepare for Good Friday

  • You might also choose to abstain this whole week from media or shopping or something else that you sense may be distracting you from giving more attention to God and his voice. With that extra time, reflect and note how you are responding. Do you feel restless? Irritable? In those moments, seek God’s presence. Ask him to show you his abundant life. Remember, fasting helps us see how our desires or hunger can control us. Fasting allows us to turn to God and discover his power at work in us. And abstaining from other things than food can also help us in a similar way.

  • Good Friday Fast - we encourage everyone to participate in fasting at least one meal on Friday and we will break fast together Friday evening before Good Friday Service.

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