EASTER SUNDAY

Read: Luke 24v1-12

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’  ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Meditate: How does the word ‘Easter’ make you feel? Excited? Happy? Hopeful? Relieved? According to this story, the first answer was actually: puzzled, terrified, unbelieving and perplexed. If you feel this way when you hear the Resurrection story, you are not alone.

What happened on the first Easter was something nobody expected. Praying at Easter isn’t about celebrating with a kind of easy certainty. It’s about praying in the midst of a broken and fractured world that is now open to strange new possibilities. It’s about being open to God’s future.

Before you can understand the resurrection, you have to understand what Jesus had been trying to communicate to us all along. That it was necessary for him to do what he did. To take the sin, shame, and death of the world onto himself. Easter is not about some arbitrary miracle. Easter is about the new creation beginning at last!

Easter is where it all begins. It is the start, not the finish, of the new story. 

Engage:I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with a single day of celebration. We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind.

This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity.

If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Christian holiness was never meant to be merely negative. Of course you have to weed the garden from time to time; that’s Lent for you. But you don’t want simply to turn the garden back into a neat bed of blank earth. Easter is the time to sow new seeds.

If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off… then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit.

The forty days of the Easter season ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.” NT Wright, Surprised by Hope

HOLY SATURDAY

Read: Luke 23v50– 56

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 

Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Meditate: Holy Saturday is the moment when darkness has descended and there is nothing to make you think, ‘It will be all right.’ If you have lost someone you have loved or had some other great tragedy come into your life, then you’ve experienced a glimpse of how Jesus’ followers must have felt that day. They were in a state of shock, unable to move or speak or think. Or pray.

But one or two people knew something still had to be done. And in being faithful in this apparently small thing, they are being prepared to be faithful in a much, much larger thing, a much greater task. 

Our part is to be prayerfully faithful in the small things that we can see need doing. We cannot tell what God will do then.

Pray: Try to find some time today to be absolutely still. To imagine Mary and the disciples utterly drained and numb. Try to imagine what it must have meant to say, ‘Jesus is dead’

Engage: Spend the evening with people you love.

GOOD FRIDAY

Read: Luke 23v26– 46 

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 

Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Meditate: In this dark and bloody moment we finally see how a righteous and loving God deals with the weight of the world’s evil and pain, and with death itself. Jesus dying in our place, for our forgiveness and for our victory.

How can we pray in a moment like this? Maybe we can only echo the request made by one of the criminals alongside him: ‘Jesus - remember me when you finally become king.’ 

But Jesus’ response surprises us, as he surprised the criminal. He IS becoming king, here and now. No more waiting. ‘Today’! In the criminals case: paradise now, and resurrection still to come. In our case: forgiveness, healing and hope, here and now. And the call to serve, and to give ourselves, as he gave himself, as we anticipate his return. 

Pray: As you go about your day, may you whisper, over and over again, this prayer: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’

Engage: Go to the good Friday service tonight at 6pm with your family or a group of people. Spend 10 minutes in silence remembering Jesus’ death.

MAUNDY THURSDAY

Read: Luke 22v14– 38 

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

Meditate: Today we go back to the night when Jesus was betrayed, to the moment when he shared his last meal with his disciples. ‘Maundy Thursday’ is the commemoration of this moment. The name comes from the Latin mandatum, the ‘commandment’ which, in John’s gospel, Jesus gave to his followers that night: the commandment that they should love one another as he had loved them.

In Luke’s account we see that kind of love embodied as Jesus patiently teaches the disciples as they quarrel and argue, make promises they can’t keep, all while failing to understand the great promises Jesus is making. Just like us.

Communion is not just a meal. It is a time for teaching, and modeling, Jesus’ view of God’s kingdom. And it’s also a time for getting ready for the trials and challenges that are about to come.

A wise old bishop once described Communion as a ‘warrior’s banquet.’ It is the food we need to strengthen us to go and do the work of God’s kingdom.

Engage: Attend the Good Friday service tomorrow tonight at 6pm with your family. Ask yourself, ‘How will my Communion equip me to face the temptations and the hostility I will run into the minute I leave church?’

HOLY WEEK: WEDNESDAY

Read: Luke 23v2–25 

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 

The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Meditate: Herod was the illegitimate ‘king of the Jews.’ His father, ‘Herod the Great’ had been placed in power by Rome as a puppet leader. Jesus is, for Herod, a kind of freak show, another would-be Messiah, but really just an oddball. And kind of a nuisance. So he sends him back to Pilate, the prefect of the Roman province of Judea.

Pilate is completely confused. He doesn’t understand the finer points of Jewish expectations and hopes. All he knows is this is a man accused of being a troublemaker, but gives no sign that he is anything but sad and deluded. Pilate is convinced that Jesus  is a lunatic, but a harmless one. 

But the crowds think otherwise and Pilate caves. 

Pray: We sometimes forget how difficult life can be for those who hold power and authority. They are often forced to decide between what is ‘right’ and what will be ‘popular.’ Pray for those in our nation and elsewhere who have that kind of responsibility. Try to look on them as Jesus looks on them. 

Engage: Write an encouraging note to someone in authority. 

Des Moines mayor, Franklin Cownie; 
Iowa governor, Terry Branstad; 
State senator, Matt McCoy; 
State representative, Joe Oldson. 
Director of Central Campus, Gary Mcclanahan

HOLY WEEK: TUESDAY

Read: Luke 22v66-23v1 

At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 

Meditate: This council was meeting because over the course of the previous three years Jesus had been doing and saying things that were outrageous in terms of the world-views and hopes of those in power in Jerusalem.

All of this came to a head when he had come into the city on a donkey and had challenged their power-base by going to the Temple and throwing out the traders. Jesus was acting out a powerful symbol. The Temple was under God’s judgment. All its meaning and history as the place where God met with his people was now being drawn to a different place. To a person.

But only one person who has rights over the Temple - The king. The messiah. The anointed one. Anyone else would be punished for high treason. 

In his response, Jesus alludes to a famous Old Testament passage (Daniel 7). In the scene, four mythological monsters come up out of the sea to attack God’s people. The last one is the most arrogant. But then God acts, snatching up the ‘one like a son of man’ and vindicating him, setting him in authority at the right hand of the mighty God.

This is the coming of the kingdom of God. 

Pray: Today there are many in the world who face unjust courts and prosecutors whose sole concern is to discredit and enslave them. Pray for them, and for God’s justice to flourish throughout the world.

Lord Jesus, you experienced in person torture and death as a prisoner of conscience. You were beaten and flogged and sentenced to an agonizing death though you had done no wrong. Be now with prisoners of conscience throughout the world. Be with them in their fear and loneliness, in the agony of physical and mental torture, and in the face of execution and death. Stretch out your hands in power to break their chains. Be merciful to the oppressor and the torturer, and place a new heart within them. Forgive all injustice in our lives, and transform us to be instruments of your peace, for by your wounds we are healed. - Amnesty International, Prayers for Peace

Engage: Watch “Grace’s Story” <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=RohCIHXBZxY> and pray for the poor, the widow and the orphan.

HOLY WEEK: MONDAY

Read: Luke 22.54– 65 

Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”

But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.

A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”

“Man, I am not!” Peter replied.

About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.

Meditate: For most of us it is not difficult to identify with Peter in this story. We all know, only too well, what it is to promise Jesus we will follow him faithfully - that we won’t let him down, that we are ready to stand firm, suffer if necessary, and to speak up for him and his kingdom whenever required - only to fall away at the first confrontation. Even a small inquiry from a small servant girl.

How do you pray at that point, finding yourself inside Peter’s skin when Jesus turns and looks straight at you?

But there is something else going on here. Notice the moment Peter realizes what he’s done and begins to weep in agony, at that precise moment, the soldiers begin mocking Jesus. Insulting Jesus. Beating Jesus. It is almost as though the shame that Peter was feeling at that moment was being heaped onto Jesus instead. 

"He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." - Is. 53v5

Pray: The apostle Paul tells us that the Lord said to him, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” As you think about Peter in this episode, think about your own weaknesses. Offer them to God for his healing, his blessing, and his strengthening. 

Engage: Shovel your neighbor’s driveway

HOLY WEEK: PALM SUNDAY

Read: Psalm 31v9– 16

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.

Meditate: The honesty of this Psalm is breathtaking. The writer is suffering at every level: he is physically weak through overwhelming sadness, a social outcast, and he is surrounded by whispering plots. There is no point in pretending that things really aren’t that bad when actually they are. 

This Psalm is much like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on his way to the cross. But of course, this kind of distress is why he went to the cross in the first place. Jesus died to draw all people to himself, to break through the barrier of decay, despair and death, and to bring about the new purposes of God for the whole world. 

We can trust this God, the God we know in this Jesus. Our times are in his hand.

Pray: Pray that God’s face will shine upon us and upon his world with deliverance and rescuing power.

Engage: spend at least one hour doing something you enjoy

Week 5: Saturday

Read: Luke 22v1- 23v49 

Meditate: This story is long and powerful. Read it slowly. Read it on your knees. Read it again quickly to get the dramatic flow. Read it again and identify with one of the characters (Peter? Pilate? The centurian?) What would I have thought if I’d been there?

Pray: Let this great story fill your thoughts and imagination. Let it color your thinking and feeling throughout your day. 

Engage: Send a handwritten letter to someone who could use some encouragement

Week 5: Friday

Read: Luke 21v7–19 

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

Meditate: What is Jesus saying here? How can we meditate on a passage full of such dark and strange stuff? 

First, Jesus is telling the disciples, in symbolic, Old Testament language, that political and military upheavals are going to take place. At the climax the city of Jerusalem itself will be destroyed. The Temple in Jerusalem, of course, had been the place where God’s people had gone to worship him, but now Jesus himself would be the place and the means by which God meets with his people.

Second, Jesus is inviting his followers to face the future with confidence. All sorts of frightening things will happen, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t in control. We live in a time between the old age and the new one. The already and the not-yet. And that can be an uncomfortable place to be. Jesus says, “Watch out. Do not be frightened. Do not be deceived. For just as God was present in the Temple, I am with you always. Even to the end of the age.”

Pray: Think about those whose faith is struggling by the things going on around them. Pray for them, that God will help them hold on. Talk to God about the things that cause your faith to struggle.

Engage: Give up online social networking for a day [Facebook, Twitter, etc.]

Week 5: Thursday

Read: Thursday Luke 20v9–19 

He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

“But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Meditate: In Jesus’ time there were several stories and songs that were ingrained in the culture. One of those stories comes in the form of an old poem about God’s vineyard (Isaiah 5). It’s a lament: God has planted a vineyard, but it has gone bad. The thorns and thistles have taken over. All because the people of Israel had exchanged justice for violence, and uprightness for wickedness.

But Jesus tells it with a new twist. The owner of the vineyard has lent it out to some tenant farmers and instead of the vineyard going bad, it’s the tenants. So the vineyard is transferred to new ones. 

Then Jesus quotes another well-known song, this time the dream-filled vision in Daniel 2, which speaks of the stone that will crush all opposition and then become a mountain that will fill the whole earth.

Why is he talking in these riddles, rooted in Scripture but with a new twist? Because something new is happening. Something so massive, dangerous, and unbelievable that the only way you can describe it is through these old songs and stories. 

Pray: If this parable were to be told today, who would be the tenants, and what would Jesus be saying to them?

Engage: Eat only one meal today of rice and beans. During the other two meal times, pray for the hungry of the world.

Week 5: Wednesday

Read: Luke 19v1–10 

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Meditate: Here again Jesus shocks everyone. Dining with a tax collector. A traitor! A sinner! Why is he always with the wrong people? But then the door flies open and Zacchaeus comes out with Jesus and announces to the crowd, “It’s all going to be different now. I’m giving half of everything I have away and I’m going to pay back fourfold to anyone I’ve cheated.” 

Then Jesus says it. “This is what I came for. This is how the world will be changed. I have come to look for the lost and rescue them.”

But there is something else going on in this story as well. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus - and he discovered the meaning of salvation. At that same time Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to hang on a very different tree. And that was how salvation happened.

Pray: Imagine you are Zacchaeus and Jesus comes to your house. Who talks first? What would you want to say to Jesus? What would it be like, meeting him face-to-face?

Engage: Tell stories as a family tonight by having each person share something that made them laugh this week.

Week 5: Tuesday

Read: Tuesday Luke 18v9–14 

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Meditate: You’ve worked hard all your life. You’ve always played by the rules. Never cheated on your taxes. Never even dreamed of running off with someone else’s wife. If the law says fast, you fast. If it says pray, you pray. So you know when you go the the Temple to say your prayers, you’re in the clear. God is going to be very pleased that you’re there. You’ve justified yourself.

But Jesus was constantly forcing people to see everything differently. Prayer is about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, not calculating whether you’ve done everything just right and feeling smug because your neighbor hasn’t managed so well. 

So how are you going to pray?

Pray: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God : have mercy on me, a sinner.

Engage: Spend the evening with people you love

Week 5: Monday

Read: Monday Luke 17v11–19 

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Meditate: When we looked at the Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, there was one lost in each case while the rest were safe. This time it’s the other way around. One person shows gratitude, and the rest go on their way. And this time it’s a Samaritan. A foreigner. An outsider. An enemy. 

Jesus says, “Congratulations! Your faith has saved you.” But faith in who? Notice he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him which Jesus attributes to giving praise to God! Jesus is the eternal Son of God come into the world to defeat sin and death and disease and to redeem us and all creation!

Pray: Part of faith is learning to see the world the way Jesus does. Today we pray, Gracious Lord, teach us to see with your eyes of compassion, and teach us to love people with your healing and welcoming love.

Engage: Have a conversation today with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to.

Week 5: Sunday

Read: Psalm 126 

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Meditate: This is a picture we can make our own as we go through Lent. Seeds of sorrow planted with blood, sweat and tears in this world - in the NOT YET - that will one day produce a great harvest and then, eternal songs of joy!

Pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Engage: spend at least one hour doing something you enjoy.

Week 4: Thursday

Read: Luke 15v4–10 

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Meditate: There was only one thing about the lost sheep that drove the shepherd to go looking for it. And that was simply the fact that it was lost. Nothing more, nothing less. The point is that every single sheep is important to the shepherd, and when any of them gets into trouble he is especially concerned for them. The same with the coin. God is looking for his lost sheep, and when he finds them the angels sing for joy!

But there is a sting in the tail of these stories, in case anyone should think that the whole point is simply Jesus’ desire to include anybody and everybody. “There is joy”, he says, “among the angels in heaven when a sinner repents.” 

Just as the Prodigal Son doesn’t stroll home with a crooked smile, confident that his soft-hearted father will  take him back in, so the people with whom Jesus is celebrating were showing they wanted their lives to change. 

Jesus welcomed sinners; but by the time he’d finished with them, they weren’t sinners any more.

Pray: Lord, help us to celebrate your welcoming love, and be transformed by it.

Engage: Have a conversation with or do something thoughtful for a neighbor or classmate.

Week 4: Wednesday

Read: Luke 14v25–33 

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Meditate: This is another instance where Jesus says some terribly harsh things. Hating your family, giving up your possessions, carrying around your own instrument of torture - what on earth is he talking about!? 

Jesus has been announcing God’s new way of running things. For Jesus’ people, ancient Israel, this meant a fundamental change in how they identified themselves; family and land.

Israel had been identified as Abraham’s family, a single ethnic unit. And they were also identified as the people who lived in a special ‘promised’ land. Family and possessions: the two things Jesus now says you have to give up. God’s people are being redefined. These identity markers don’t matter anymore. During this Lenten season it is helpful to ponder - where am I finding my identity?

Pray: Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, used to pray this prayer:

Lord, teach me to be generous,
Teach me to serve you as you deserve:
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and to ask for no reward,
Save that of knowing that I do your will. 

Engage: Fast from the radio or music while in the car

Week 4: Tuesday

Read: Luke 13v22–30 

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Meditate: Jesus is asked who is going to be saved. Surprisingly he doesn’t respond with what someone must positively do. He merely warns his listeners against presumption and then tells them that there will come a time when the people who thought they were ‘automatically’ part of God’s people will find that they’re outside, while plenty who never imagined they’d have anything to do with the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be inside.

The shocking warning to the insiders is matched by the surprising grace towards the outsiders. It is a shocking reminder to recognize that everything we have, everything we are, is a gift from God, and that neither we nor anybody else deserve it.

Pray: Thank you, Father, for your generous love. Help me, today and everyday, to trust in you, not in myself.

Engage: Put a list of things for which you’re grateful in your pocket. Take it out and read it every time you catch yourself complaining.

Week 4: Monday

Read: Luke 12v35–40 

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Meditate: Jesus’ teaching about not worrying is balanced here by his warning that we should be alert. Here he invites us to imagine ourselves going to bed at night but expecting all the time that there might be a burglar on the way. Jesus was getting his followers ready for great events that were still to come. Everything he was doing was about launching a project, the work of God’s kingdom. But nobody knows when its going to arrive in full. So we are to be poised, alert, ready - like servants waiting for the master of the house to come back from a late-night party.

God’s kingdom was truly launched at Jesus’ resurrection on that first Easter Sunday, but it will be completed when Jesus returns and God makes the new heavens and new earth. We have no idea when that will happen. We have to be ready at any time.

Pray: Lord, give us the patience and the courage to watch and wait and be ready for the day when your kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.

Engage: Spend at least thirty minutes with someone under the age of 5 or over the age of 70.

Week 4: Sunday

Read: Psalm 32 

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.

Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Meditate: Forgiveness is the most powerful thing in the world. When you’ve been forgiven, your life will change in a way that nothing else will achieve. A sense of freedom. A new start. Fresh possibilities. Of course, forgiveness only comes after repentance, which is difficult. But scriptures like Psalm 32 are there to remind us that it’s worth it.

Pray: We often think of repentance as a dreary, embarrassing thing, forgetting what a joy it is to know we are ransomed, healed, restored, and forgiven. Is there something that you really need to put behind you, this Lent, once and for all?

Engage: spend at least one hour doing something you enjoy.