Lent Reflections Holy Week

 

Bible reading - Matthew 13.44-46

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Reflection

What is the most valuable thing you possess? And what did you have to give up to obtain it? Or what would you be willing to lose in order to keep it? We might answer this in purely financial terms. My most valuable possession is my home and I give up half my salary every month to keep it.  Or we might think in terms of sentimental value. My mother’s engagement ring is the most precious thing I own. It’s only mine because she is no longer with us, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Or we might think in relational terms. My children are the most important thing in my life, and I have sacrificed greatly for them.Jesus says that God’s kingdom is like that. Some of us who have been Christians for a long time can forget how precious it is to know ourselves loved by God, and so we miss out on the joy of sharing that gift with others.

Prayer

Loving God, your Son Jesus Christ gave up everything for us. Help us to be truly grateful, and to share the gift of your good news with others so that they might receive it, too. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.

Bible reading - Acts 1.7-9

He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Reflection

Hannah Steele writes: “Our role as witnesses is often more akin to nudging people along the pathway than to running and completing a sprint. Such nudging evangelism requires patience, perseverance and all the creative skills at our disposal. We may meet someone who has barely started along their faith journey and our role is to spark interest in the Christian faith. We may meet someone who has been thinking about the Christian faith for a while and our role might be to patiently and seriously help them work through some of the questions that they have. Thinking in terms of steps along a pathway can free us from the burden of feeling we have to bring someone to a moment of commitment straight away. It can be more helpful to ask the question ‘What is the next step this person needs to make on their faith journey?’ [and how can I help?]. [This is] beautiful evangelism in practice, responding intelligently and individually to the person before us.”

Prayer

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you call me to witness to what I have experienced in my faith life, and so bring glory to you. Through the Holy Spirit, please help me to be a good witness to your love. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.

Bible reading - 1 Corinthians 1.21-5

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Reflection

In 1984 the renowned evangelist Billy Graham came to England and preached at sports stadia around the country for a week at a time. I was 18 years old. As a very keen young Christian I hired a coach every night to take people from my school to the nearest event, 50 miles away. One of my school friends recently posted on Facebook the letter that I wrote to him inviting him to come with me, which he did. I was moved that he still had this, 36 years later.The fact that most people come to faith gradually does not mean that there is no place for this proclamation style of evangelistic preaching. For many, that can be one piece of the puzzle, even if coming to faith is a slow process. And all of us have a part to play. I can’t preach like Billy Graham. But I can pray, I can witness to what I have experienced, and I can invite.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for those who are gifted to proclaim the message of the Gospel. Please bless and use them. And help me to play my part, as I pray and witness and invite. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.

Bible reading - Luke 24.13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection

It’s the day of the resurrection of Jesus and two disciples are walking to a village called Emmaus. They are talking about this wild rumour that they have heard, that Jesus is alive, and trying to make sense of it. The risen Christ walks with them, unrecognised, and joins the conversation. Later, he assumes the role of the host at the table, and breaks bread, and in that moment, they recognise him. For many people, coming to faith is more like the Emmaus Road than the Damascus Road. Jesus is recognised as one who has been there all along, opening the Scriptures, breaking the bread. Neither one of these is better than the other. Our prayer is that people should come to know the Risen Christ and his presence in their lives. Whether that happens suddenly or slowly matters not at all.

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, that you walk with each one of us, that you teach us, that you reveal yourself to us in the breaking of the bread. Help me to recognise you wherever I may find you. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.

 

Bible reading - Acts 26.12-16

On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.

Reflection

Today we look at some words from earlier in Paul’s defence before King Agrippa, in which he tells his story of meeting Christ on the road to Damascus. This is such an important story in Paul’s life and ministry that the New Testament records it in several different places. Perhaps the only thing that almost everybody knows about Paul is the drama of his conversion. We even talk of someone having a ‘Damascus road conversion’ when they change their minds about something completely in a moment. It’s a powerful and moving story.  It may be that your story of coming to faith has one or more dramatic moments too, and you can identify to some extent with Paul’s experience. But that isn’t true for many of us. And the assumption that this is what becoming a Christian is supposed to look like can be unhelpful when we evaluate the much more gradual journey that many of us have been on.

Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for the ways you have brought us to faith in you, whether dramatic or gradual. Please help us to walk alongside others who are on that same journey of faith. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.

 

 

Bible reading - Acts 26.1-32

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defence: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defence against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.

“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?

“I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.

“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defence. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” The king rose, and with him the governor and Bernice and those sitting with them. After they left the room, they began saying to one another, “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Reflection

Paul, under arrest, appears before King Agrippa and by way of a defence tells his own story. As he does so, we notice three things.

First is his courage. We sometimes say we need more confidence to talk about our faith. Paul cannot be feeling confident here. Instead he has to reach for courage, as do many of us when our moment to speak comes.

Second is his conviction. He is so convinced of the truth of the Gospel that he wants everyone to become a Christian so that they might know God as he does.

Third is his challenge. He sets a challenge before his listeners to examine for themselves what he has said and to make a response, whether that takes a short time or a long time. And so he reminds us that each person who comes to faith in Christ does so in their own way and at their own speed.

Prayer

Lord, give me the courage to tell my story of faith in you, and patience to allow others to respond in their own way and at their own speed. Amen.

Action for the week

This week, commit to praying regularly for five people in your life who do not, as far as you know, have faith in Christ. Look for opportunities to share your story with them.


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