Your Daily Lenten Devotional
April 3, 2012
Into the Wilderness
Until Recently, Dead!
Read John 12:1-11.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him (vv. 1-2, NIV).
Today we’re going to step out of the time-line sequence of the Gospel story. But it’s a deliberate move–because The Greatest Story Ever Told is being told for a reason. I want to reexamine the setting for Holy Week.
For me, the reason for the story of Holy Week always comes into clearer focus when I think of my family. I know I write about my children a lot, but my experiences with them tell the story of redemption and reconciliation so clearly that I can’t help but listen.
Recently, my daughter, Naomi, and her husband, Craig, came home for a week to celebrate my birthday. It would have been great to have our son, Andrew, in the mix too, but traveling from Tuscany is more of a challenge than from Connecticut, and Rebekah and I were going to be heading his way before long.
My birthday celebration was a long affair, during which we ate a large dinner together. But the repast—as in bread, wine, lasagna, chicken Parmesan, cannelloni, spaghetti, coffee, chocolate cake, and so forth—only constituted a small part of the occasion. Love and presence, not food, held sway over the evening.
At Table With Jesus, Living As If We Mean It
And so today we’re jumping back to John 12, the story of Jesus attending a dinner party in Bethany. It’s the day before his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This time the meal is more like a deep breath, a last moment of tranquility before Jesus purposefully walks into Jerusalem to experience betrayal and a violent death. There is peace around the table—good friends hanging out, enjoying one another’s presence. And look who’s there! Lazarus, who until recently, lay dead in his tomb!
The Easter story is all about living completely, radically, and consummately; about living out loud, living as if we mean it. That is, after all, why Jesus was willing to go to Jerusalem and to give up absolutely everything for the people who were reclining with him around the table. He is still most welcome—not as a guest but as family.
Celebration is incomplete any other way.
Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There!
Sometimes we find ourselves in such a hurry to extract all the meaning possible from this time of the year that we forget to sit at the table with Jesus and to just be. Jesus and his friends simply enjoyed the meal in Bethany. For Lazarus the joy was in being alive.
So I’m interested in a Lenten experience that for today at least puts “being” ahead of “doing.” Many of us frantically “do” faith, showing up for every event at church, throwing ourselves into service and mission, tuning in to Christian radio in our cars. We try hard to live the practical expression of a holy life.
That’s fine. But what are we doing about being holy? I believe that we should sometimes ground our experience in a spiritual practice that invites an attitude of “don’t just do something—sit there”! Or, to use a phrase that my wife, Rebekah, often employs, “Everything we do at this church comes out of worship.” And our worship would certainly benefit from a little more “Be still and understand the presence of God” as the impetus for the “doing” part of our faith journey.
Being Moves Us Into Doing
Such a vital experience of being propels us into action, action grounded in a more vital connection to “the source of all being.” God, in my experience, is interested in occupying every element of our experience. The Creator doesn’t just give us marching orders at church and check off what we’re up to–God wants to inhabit our being and transform the experience.
In Mark’s account of the “parable of the sower,” Jesus pointed out that life can–and will–get in the way of the message when we forget to be still.
“Some folk are exposed to God’s words; but then other–more pressing–priorities crowd their lives and get in the way. Eventually the message is pretty much lost to them. God’s voice is choked out, and people receive no benefit from the transformational life it offers” (Mark 4:18-19, author’s paraphrase).
Prayer: We know how important it is to be still and tune in to your voice, God. Help us to reprioritize and schedule more time at the table with Jesus. Amen.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
Reaching Toward Easter: Devotions for Lent
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Reaching Toward Easter by Derek Maul offers a daily devotional pilgrimage through Lent, using the framework of the Gospel of John as a guide. Features include a suggested scripture reading for each day, prayers for personal devotions, and a leader’s guide for weekly group meetings.
Used with the kind permission of our friends at Upper Room Books.