St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Lent Week Four—Saturday

Psalm 85 Isaiah 2:5-10 Hebrews 2:5-10 John 1:9-14

As I read today’s Gospel reading, I thought of season two-episode one of The Chosen. It is a series based on the life of Jesus. It is based on scripture, but the creators use creative liberties to humanize each of Jesus’ disciples. John is seen writing his Gospel, which was written at least 90 years after Jesus’ birth.

In the show, John is giving special care to write down the exact words of eyewitness accounts from several people that knew Jesus, such as Mother Mary and the other disciples. He thinks about what “beginning” he should write.

As you know, all four Gospels are written differently. Each writer points to different important parts of the story and of our Savior. John points back to creation and Jesus being there with God the Father (v. 1) and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:26). John also points back to the Law of Moses (v. 17) and how Jesus saves us with grace and truth, not only to “his own people (v. 11),” but to all who received and believed Him (v. 12).

How fortunate we are that “God did not subject the coming world … to angels. But [He is] … mindful of … mortals, that [He] care[s] for them’” (Hebrews 1:5-6). When reading this, I am reminded of the Canaanite woman’s humility, boldness, and confidence in Jesus’ goodness and of her persistence as she asks for him to heal her demonpossessed daughter. In Matthew 15:27, “She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’” One cannot be much humbler than comparing oneself to dogs grasping for crumbs. God treasures us so much, but sometimes we, especially I, need to remember how undeserving we are of his love, personal attention, and salvation. How blessed we are that “What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (v. 3b-4). He has chosen each of us and loves us, no matter how undeserving, just as he loved John.

-Lauren Thibodeaux

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Friday in The Fourth Week of Lent

Lent Week Four–Friday

Psalm 107 Jeremiah 23:1-8 Romans 8:28-39 John 6:52-59

Some treat Lent as a brooding self-deprivation calendar entry. Christianity, however, is nothing if it is not about choices. Ask Adam and Eve. And viewed under that lens, isn’t Lent an opportunity – an opportunity to strengthen our faith and forge a stronger relationship with God?

Psalm 107 calls us to “give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever” and to “give thanks for His unfailing love.” Not all subjects in Psalm 107 were so appreciative. Some “wandered in the desert wasteland” and some “became fools through rebellious ways and suffered affliction until they came to the Lord in their troubles, and He saved them.” And when enemies scattered the flock, “God gathered the remnants and brought them back to their pasture where they multiplied.” For “we know in all things that God works for the good of those who love Him.” Romans 8:28.

Jesus’ invitation is much more direct. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day.” “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father so the one who feeds on me will live because of me” …..and “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” John 6:52-59.

Implied in Jesus’ invitation is that not everyone will “feed” on the bread he provides. Some in the Psalm were rebellious. Some trust not in God but rather in earthly things.

So, who receives this “unfailing love”? Unfailing love is how the New International Version of the Bible translates the Hebrew word “checed”. King James, version: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men”, while other versions use “loving kindness” or “favor”, or “steadfast love.” All connote a love that is always present, always there, always available. Like any relationship, that love must be accepted. Do we accept God’s love? Do we accept the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we ACCEPT HIM? Do we accept that Jesus Christ is the only son of God the Father? Do we accept that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary; was crucified, died, and was buried; and on the third day ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father to judge the living and the dead? Do we accept God’s unfailing love? If so, what is the level of that acceptance? Does our acceptance occur only when we are wondering in the wasteland” or when everything is going our way?

Jesus Christ demonstrated his unfailing love for us by sacrificing his body and blood on the cross. He asks only in return that we accept him; that we feed on him. That we choose Christ.

According to Mark Twain, “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” Today’s readings reveal God shows his favor and unfailing love on those who choose to accept him and accept and feed on his Son our Savior Jesus Christ. It is no more complex than that. It requires a sacrifice. Not as great a sacrifice as dying on a cross, but a true sacrifice, nonetheless. It requires a change of behavior, a change of priorities, and a change in our choices. Are we willing to make those changes?

How do we show we accept God’s unfailing love and the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ? Faith of course, but maybe our acceptance of God’s love is reflected in our compliance with the command laid out in the road map provided to us: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. And if we choose to demonstrate that commitment in our daily lives, we will receive the unfailing love of God and the promise of Jesus Christ that we will be raised up to eternal life. The choice is ours, and the level of our acceptance is ours to choose as well. But isn’t the opportunity afforded by Lent a great place to start?

-Ginny and Brian Homza

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

A nun of the Missionaries of Charity order, which was founded by Mother Teresa, feeds a mentally retarded inmate at a mission home in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta December 4, 1996. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore PP03090051 jm – RTRYPH

Lent Week Four—Thursday

Psalm 73 Jeremiah 22:13-23 Romans 8:12-27 John 6:41-51

Psalm 73 was penned by Asaph, a singer in King David’s court, whose descendants formed the guild of temple musicians. I have spent most of my life surrounded by singers and other musicians, and one thing I’ve learned is that most folks in that field are “of modest means.” Apparently, that was also the case in biblical times, as evidenced by Asaph’s struggle with feelings of envy.

He saw the wealthy as being without troubles – healthy, strong, and free from burdens. Asaph was grieved and bitter, feeling that his efforts to live a good, pure life were not worthwhile. He faced daily afflictions and troubles, and nearly “lost his foothold.” How easy it would be to fall in with the powerful, even those who speak and act with violence.

When Asaph was ultimately drawn back to God, he realized how misguided his thinking had been. Surely, God will deal with those who are corrupt and evil. Asaph’s faith was restored, and he again trusted God’s guidance. While many of us can certainly relate to Asaph’s battle with envy, I am reminded of my grandmother’s insistence that “no matter how difficult our circumstances, there are countless people who are worse off.” Her goal was, of course, to bring us to a point of gratitude.

But let’s look at things a different way: “Are others envious of me…of what I have? Am I perceived to be without struggles?” Take an honest look at the way we use our gifts. We must all strive to embody God’s kindness and love in our dealings with everyone, sharing our life’s stories – both the uplifting and the challenging – and always using our gifts for good. Perhaps this season of Lent gives us an opportunity to truly examine ways we can be of help. At the end of the day, the Lord will repay with each of us according to our deeds.

-Lory Tubbs

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Lent Week Four—Wednesday

Psalm 101 Jeremiah 18:1-11 Romans 8:1-11 John 6:27-40

When God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house, the pottery wheel had been in existence for over 3,000 years. Jeremiah knew how pots were made and he might have wondered what was the point of going to the potter’s house? Why did God just not tell Jeremiah what was on His mind? Perhaps the answer is in verse 3: “I went down to the potter’s house and I saw him working at the wheel”. God wanted to indelibly imprint an image in the heart and mind of Jeremiah.

Clay is essential to the potter. While it might be a stretch to say the potter loves the clay, the potter understands how important the clay is to his ultimate concern or goal of creation. Jeremiah saw the potter working at the wheel forming the clay into a particular shape for a specific purpose, but something went wrong and the goal of the potter was frustrated. The vessel that he was making was spoiled in his hand.

The potter did not throw the clay out. Using the same clay that had become spoiled, the potter made it over, reworking it into another vessel. The clay remained valuable and useful to the potter. The potter persisted in working with the same clay to create a valuable object. In verse 6, Jeremiah reveals the lesson. “As this clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” God will not give up on us. God will not throw us out but continue to rework us into the people He wants us to be. I pray we realize that God’s plan for us is infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams.
-Ephesians 3:20

Jason Waltman

St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts: Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Lent Week Four—Tuesday

Psalm 94 Jeremiah 17:1-27 Romans 7:13-25 John 6:16-27

The readings from Psalm 94 and Jeremiah 17 make clear arguments for being on the Lord’s “good side.” To me, the message is: Go it alone, find yourself in a pit of despair; walk with Him, all will be well. It’s a no-brainer choice, but have I actually made it?

The Lenten season is a time to help us reflect on where we are in our walk (or lack of walk) with the Lord through self-examination, repentance, and self-denial. Being raised Catholic, I really thought I knew how to “do” Lent… you gave up something (self-denial, check). Ideally, that something was something that you wanted to improve about yourself anyway: giving up sweets came with the added bonus of losing a few pounds! But what about the other parts of Lent, self-examination? Repentance? Yikes and no thanks!

Mostly, I think my problem was that I really didn’t understand the concept of repentance. To me, repentance was complicated, messy, scary even, and on top of all that, would expose all of my awfulness when what I really wanted to do was show the Lord I was good so that I could be worthy and loved.

I was recently blessed with a better understanding. Our St. Mark’s Friends in Faith group is reading The Illumined Heart by Fredericka Mathewes-Green, who explains in the book that repentance is examining your sinful, bad parts so that God can help you gain insight, overcome your evil ways, and open your mind and heart up to Him so that good works can abound. I hope that this Lenten season I will have the courage to become aware of my sins, expose them and offer them up through prayer, so that I can be sure that I have actively made the choice to walk with Him.

-Katherine Douthitt