Lenten Challenge #22

Hot Cross Buns

Today is Easter Sunday and our final Lenten Challenge. On a normal Easter, most Christians gather in their churches for worship, and then, when possible, continue Easter fellowship with family and friends. This year is different. Because of COVID-19, we find ourselves physically separated from one another. There won’t be packed churches or large Easter Egg hunts or Easter lunches. However, it is still Easter—the day Christians celebrate that our God is triumphant over the power of sin and death. It is still the day we rejoice that nothing can separate us from our Lord.

Your Challenge for this day is to reflect on an Easter memory that you have. It can be poignant, spiritual, or just funny. But think back over previous Easters and find what was most meaningful for you. If you want to share a story in the comments, that would be wonderful.

In Christ,
Sherard

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Lenten Challenge #21

Jesus the Gardener

For today, the final day of Lent 2020, your Challenge is to read John chapter 20 which contains the Easter story of Jesus appearing to the Mary Magdalene at the tomb and then Jesus appearing to the disciples (minus Thomas) later in the day. A question for this reading is, “Why did Mary mistake Jesus for the gardener?”

There will be one more Challenge tomorrow for Easter.

John 20
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

Lenten Challenge #20

Good Friday

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they pierced Him in the side?
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

These are the words from the moving African-American spiritual that has become part of our recognition of Holy Week. Friday of Holy Week is that day of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and burial. In English we call this day Good Friday.

Your Challenge for this Good Friday is simply to read the account of this day as given to us by the Gospel of John. Read John 18 and 19. As you read, ask yourself this question: At what point could the events of this day have been averted?

Lenten Challenge #19

No Trespassing

Here’s an interesting question to ask at parties: “Did you grow up saying ‘debts,’ ‘trespasses,’ or ‘sins’?” The question is rooted in the Lord’s Prayer where different Christian traditions translate the Greek in different ways.

Your Challenge for today is simply to meditate on the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Yes, you say it every Sunday, but how often do you read it slowly and reflectively. As we near the end of Lent, take this prayer which we too often take for granted and just pray it.

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

For an excellent discussion of debts-trespasses-sins, I recommend this article.

Lenten Challenge #18

thank you note

It is never too late to express gratitude. Your Challenge for today is to express your gratitude to another person by writing them a thank you note. The note can be for anyone. It need not be fancy. All you need to do is to express your gratitude and thanks for something they have done for you.

Psalm 136
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Lenten Challenge #17

Reaching Out

We have not held corporate worship services in our sanctuary for four weeks now. We are deep into our social distancing. We likely have a few more weeks to go. So, that makes today the perfect time to reach out to an old friend with whom you haven’t spoken with in too long. Yes, it may be tough, but take the leap and make the phone call (or send the email) to that person who has slipped away. Use this time to strengthen the bonds that connect us.

Proverbs 18:24
Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

Lenten Challenge #16

Holy Week

The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer, bear, endure.” For Christians, The Passion refers to the short final period in the life of Jesus and includes the events between Palm Sunday and Jesus’ death. Today, Monday, begins the Christian Holy Week–the week of Christ’s Passion. Your Challenge for today is to read carefully the account of this Passion Week as presented in the Gospel According to Mark in chapters 14 and 15. So, get out your Bible…

Lenten Challenge #15

Path up a hill

Today is Palm Sunday and so your Challenge for today is to meditate upon a Psalm of Ascent. The Psalms of Ascents are Psalms 120-134. These are the psalms pilgrims would sing as they went “up” to Jerusalem. No doubt, Jesus sang these as he traveled toward the city to celebrate the Passover Feast. As you read, imagine that you are a pilgrim walking toward Jerusalem accompanied by dozens of other pilgrims. How does this psalm prepare you for the upcoming holy day? You may read any or all of the Psalm of Ascent. I suggest Psalm 122.

Psalm 122
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.

Lenten Challenge #14

Preacher

Your Challenge for this day is to listen to a sermon. Sorry, but tomorrow’s live sermon doesn’t count. Find a sermon from the past and listen to it. It can be one of my sermons (FPC sermon archives). I’ve listed 4 of my favorites below. OR, you are free to go online and find the sermon of another preacher at another church. It doesn’t matter, just listen. After you are done, share with us in the comments what you listened to.

Exodus 4:10-12

But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”

Sherard’s favorites

August 13, 2017 – Take My Hand
June 17, 2018 – The Valley of Death
March 31, 2019 – Life in Christ: Life in New Creation
June 16, 2019 – True Grit

Lenten Challenge #13

Two weeks ago, for Challenge #4, you prayed for 3 minutes. You completed that Challenge and your prayer muscles grew stronger. Today, your Challenge is to pray for 5 minutes. Find a quiet place, set your timer, and open your mind to God. Talk about your concerns and your joys. To help you focus, meditate on these words from Psalm 121.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.