Lent 2010

Philippians 3: Setting Our Mind on Christ

February 26th, 2010

By Courtney Walker, EMU senior and pastoral assistant

Read: Philippians 3:17-4:1

The Christian walk with Christ happens daily. Often it is easy to get side-tracked by something or someone that seems appealing, these are distractions from the prize ahead. Paul challenges believers to pursue a life like Christ; after all to be Christian is to be Christ-like.

Paul is the example for the Philippians’ to follow; while he is not perfect his life is focused on following Christ as should theirs and ours alike. The Philippians’ had a difficult task back in Paul’s day because there simply was no Bible. Today we have the word of God in tangible form. When we get distracted or begin to lose faith, the word of God is within arm’s reach to provide us with the strength we need to keep going.

People will proclaim to know the God of our salvation and live by completely different standards; we must not be fooled by them. Self satisfying Christians will put their needs before others and go against Christ’s model of service and sacrifice. Do not be easily fooled by others who profess to walk with Christ. We must try not to get so caught up in our daily lives that we become self-indulgent.

Text messages should not take our attention from the worship that is taking place. We shouldn’t be passing notes during the sermon for little Amy’s birthday party, or become so caught up in work that there is no time for prayer. We must set our mind on Christ, not the things of this world.

We must “stay true to the Lord.” Is this easier said than done? Yes, we live in the 21st century with a number of distractions, but Christ provides us with his word to guide us. Let us keep our eyes on Christ and when we are challenged or opposed to remain firm in our salvation. God promises to give us strength. Let us surround ourselves with fellow believers and rely on the Comforter to help us stay true to the Lord.

Luke 9: Ready for a Transformation

February 24th, 2010

By Karissa Sauder, EMU senior and pastoral assistant

Read: Luke 9:28-36

Those of us from Mennonite traditions typically do well at remembering the humanity of Jesus.  With our emphasis on Christ’s life of service, we seek to follow his physical, human example.  To me, this sounds much simpler than aspiring to the perfection of Christ’s divinity.  Jesus as deity is mysterious, complex, difficult to understand.

In Luke 9, we learn that the disciples got a glimpse of this divine nature when Christ was transfigured before them.  Of course, they were asleep at first.  How many times did the disciples miss critical moments in either fatigue or simple ignorance?  More importantly, how often do we take the place of the sleeping disciples?  Are we any more alert than they were, watching for the miracles of God all around us?

Lent is a call to wake up.  In this season, we want to have a heightened sense of both our apathy and our brokenness, keeping our eyes wide open for the work of God in our lives.  Though we think of the human, tempted Jesus during Lent, we also spend this time seeking his divinity as we repent of the things that keep us from being more like him.  Notably, the word that Matthew uses to describe the change in Jesus in his account of the transfiguration is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 12:2 when he urges us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  In this Lenten season, are we pursuing this kind of radical change?

Be awake.  God is ready to transform us.  May we be prepared to let him.

Psalm 27: Drawing Close in Times of Need

February 22nd, 2010

By Daniel Miller, EMU senior and pastoral asisstant

Read: Psalm 27

The Christian faith seems to have a natural ebb and flow. The cycle has a high point of spiritual contentment from a particular sermon or retreat or scripture passage or worship time or conversation with a friend or something else entirely. Then, inevitably, the cycle reaches a low point with some disaster or question or suffering or perhaps any of the events listed as high points. Enthusiasm and belief in God just seem to come and go as they please.

I think David is thinking of both the highs and lows in Psalm 27. He has great confidence in his faith and in his God in the first verses. He’s aware of adversaries and foes, but he is sure that God is there sustaining him even through difficulty. Then in verse 7 his mood shifts. He seems drained of all confidence and far from the sure faith he just displayed. Ultimately though, David comes back to faith in verses 13 and 14. He even goes so far as to assure us, the reader, to be strong, take courage, and wait for the Lord! Suddenly his confidence is full again and he’s King David, the man after God’s own heart.

What’s interesting is how David cries out to God in these middle verses. It’s certainly not unusual for Christians to cry out to God in low points, but David doesn’t put all the responsibility on God to fix the problem. How often do Christians face troubles and pray for God to remove the obstacle? Or how often do Christians cry out to God for help and expect their problems to disappear? That’s what I expected to read.

David though, in his low point, simply wanted to pull closer to God. Howard Friend would say that David was coming back to the “sacred center” by focusing on his relationship with God instead of the situation.

The prayer I was expecting would have asked God to right all the wrongs so that David can get back to living life as he likes – with belief and assurance. All David longs for though is to be close to God in his times of trouble. It’s then from that closeness to God that David can eventually get back to his place of faith and confidence.

So as we live life and face obstacles, may we too seek God’s face and find strength to wait on the Lord as David did.

The Word is Near to You

February 19th, 2010

by Linda Alley, EMS staff, 2008 EMS graduate

Read: Romans 10:8b-13

One of the most enduring and stable beliefs in my life is that God is WITH me – with us – with each of us individually and collectively. It’s kind of like the old wedding vows: “in sickness and health, for richer, for poorer….” I no longer see God as manipulator of the circumstances. I don’t expect that just because God is with me all things are going to be fine and cushy. Things happen. Mostly they’re caused by human mistakes and vices. We live in a broken world, and we’re all part of the problem.

But in that place – in the environment of this time and culture – the good news is that I am not alone. I don’t need to seek high and low for help. The Romans scripture says it like this: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…” What is that “word”? It’s the word of faith, the word that says “Yes, Jesus is Lord”.

That kind of faith “saves” me when I believe it in my heart and speak it with my mouth. It saves me from thinking I control the circumstances in my life. It saves me from blaming God for them or taking my blessings as my fair due. It saves me from despair, and from pride. “The same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him…”

“The word is near you.” That is the blessing. It is enough.

Luke 4:1-13

February 17th, 2010

Brian Martin BurkholderBy Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU Campus Pastor

Read: Luke 4:1-13

What a way to open the Lenten journey – with a scripture passage on the temptation of Jesus. I mean, it’s a troubling passage in some ways. For instance, some wonder if Jesus was truly tempted by the devil – he was “fully human” so temptation must have had some power over him. Of course, Jesus was also fully divine and said to be “full of the Holy Spirit” at the time of this tempting, so it might have been only a matter of the devil doing the tempting, not Jesus really feeling tempted – right?

And what are we to make of scripture being quoted by both Jesus and the devil? Jesus’ being steeped in scripture I understand, but this is God’s Word being used in powerful ways by the devil. Is scripture something to be used and manipulated to gain power over another? I sense more temptation here – but for whom?

There is plenty of temptation in the season of Lent. Perhaps the greatest temptation is to ignore this annual invitation to a season of reflection and soul-searching, meditating on the life of Jesus and examining our own lives to see where we have gotten off the path of a genuine following of Jesus. Could it be the voice of the devil luring us into complacency, apathy, even death of spirit or the poisoned thinking that we have more power and control when we go it alone?

This season of Lent is an opportunity to draw near to God through scripture, reflection and prayer. We can journey together as students, staff and faculty members offer insights, questions, challenges and invitations stimulated by God’s Word. When tempted by the devil, Jesus held firm to the truth of God that transcends personal struggle and dynamics of false power. Let us do the same.

Welcome!

February 16th, 2010

Welcome back to EMU’s online Lenten reflections, first offered one year ago. The devotions, intended for personal reflection and engagement with scriptures, will be sent Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the 2010 Lenten church season.

Those providing the devotions fill the following roles within EMU’s campus community:

  • Feb. 17-19: campus pastor
  • Feb. 22-26: undergraduate students
  • March 1-5: graduate students
  • March 8-12: peacebuilders and pastors
  • March 15-19: faculty
  • March 22-16: staff
  • March 29-April 2: alumni

You’re invited to again share your own thoughts and reflections in the comments of each devotion. We also encourage you to let others know about the reflection series via Facebook, Twitter or the old-fashioned way: word-of-mouth! Anyone can subscribe in just a few clicks. Welcome back!