We enter the season of Lent in an unorthodox, but very helpful way.
Our times in worship together through Lent will center on the Gospel of John and those who encounter Jesus. No two encounters are the same; each is unique in its own way. A careful reading of John’s Gospel shows a little bit of each of us in every encounter.
Jesus saw people in the context of their entire life’s journey and responded accordingly. The woman at the well was not a lesser human of dubious reputation, but a woman who was spiritually lost looking for living water. The man at the side of the road in Jericho was not an annoyance, a speed bump on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem, but a man whose entire life of dependence, hopelessness and despair came down to this one divine encounter.
What challenges us is that we so often see people only in the instance of encountering them, what can be called the ‘static moment’. We seldom stop to consider them in the context of their longer journey. Jesus’ encounters lead us to see that God wants us to live with an openness toward the Holy Spirit working in us that we might be sensitive to the bigger picture going on around us.
Here is a story to illustrate. A year ago, I was flying back from a trip when I encountered a frustrating flight delay that would likely cause me to miss a connection, resulting in an extra night in an airport hotel tacked on to an already long trip. Two gate agents were working furiously to accommodate growing lines of angry passengers who faced a similar fate. After the last person had been served, the two sat behind their computer terminals in a daze. Fifteen minutes went by and still no plane or update on its status came. My frustration nearly reached a tipping point. I rose to my feet, grabbed my boarding pass and began walking toward one of the gate agents. I would be polite, but my tone would be firm and my words expressive of how poorly I felt the whole situation had been handled. As I moved up in front of the beleaguered woman behind the computer screen, another man stepped forward and spoke before I could.
“Hey, I just want you both to know how much we all appreciate what you’re trying to do for us. I know this is a lousy situation, but you have done a great job. I’m going down to Starbucks to pick up some coffee—can I get you anything while I’m there?”
I will not soon forget the looks of surprise and gratitude on their faces. Nor will I forget how I felt about my own approach to the situation. I was about to respond in the heat of the static moment, and this man had considered these two women in the context of their larger journey and blessed them. It was an important lesson learned.
We share our lives every day with people who, like the woman at the well, the blind man in Jericho and those two agents at the airline counter need a word of encouragement, compassion and hope. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, his response was completely unexpected. When that man approached the airline ticket counter, his comments were the last thing anyone expected to hear.
As we prepare to journey through Lent may we be prepared as well to respond like Jesus. It will mean setting aside your own agenda. It will mean stopping and looking at life from the perspective of the other person, responding in a way that meets their needs, not yours. It might be the highlight of your day.
It might be our best way to journey with Jesus as the imperfect believers that we are.
Rev. Dr. Tom Blair
For Lent this year, our congregation is invited to participate in a daily spiritual practice using a devotional book called The Inner Work of Lent by Philip Cover and Donna Mollenkopf. This prayer journal includes writings from Helen Keller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Simone Weil, Martin Luther King JR, and Mother Teresa as well as guided questions for journaling and prayerful reflection. Please pick up your copy in worship or drop by the church office. We are giving these prayer devotionals for free, however, we welcome donations which will go to Presbyterian Disaster Relief.
Blessings and prayers to each of you in your Lenten journey. If you have any questions please contact Rev. Amy Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lenten Bible Study: The Gospel According to John
Thursday Evenings, March 7–April 11
6 pm in the Manse
This Lent we are studying the Gospel According to John. As a part of this journey, your Pastors—Tom, Jenn and Amy— will lead a weekly Bible on Thursday evenings.
Sunday, March 24, 10 AM, Smith Hall
Wednesday, March 27
7 pm in the Chapel
Palm Sunday: April 14
10 AM Single Worship Service
Maundy Thursday: April 18
6:30 PM Dinner; 7:30 PM Worship
Good Friday: April 19
12 PM Worship Service in the Chapel
7 PM in the Sanctuary
Easter Sunday: April 21
6:15 AM Sunrise Service in Sherwood Gardens
9 AM & 11 AM Worship
Easter Brunch & Egg Hunt
10 AM in Smith Hall & on the church lawn