Lent Rules

Let’s talk about the Lectionary for a moment.

The Revised Common Lectionary is a prescribed set of scripture assignments in a three-year cycle. The purpose of the Lectionary is to provide preachers with a compass. Those who follow it will be sure to draw from a wide range of readings, as opposed to choosing what to preach on each week based on our own preferences. Trust me, we would all like to stay in the safe waters of the Gospel of John or the Psalms, but the Lectionary throws us into the deep depths of Amos and Revelation as well. Those are books a smart preacher avoids like the plague! So following the Lectionary ensures that the entire Bible gets preached.

A Lenten discipline that I am practicing for the second year now is to do these devotionals following the Lectionary. Usually when I sit down to write, God has presented a topic that has captured my attention and I find a scripture that speaks directly to the issue. During Lent, the scripture will find me instead, as I will be following the four prescribed weekly assignments for Year A. (Fridays will be writer’s choice!)

Yes, this is a harder approach. But Lent is designed to stretch us, challenge us, and allow God to teach us his wisdom into our secret hearts. So come along with me as we allow the Lectionary to drive this train!

Matthew 6 (The Message)

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.

2-4 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Isn’t this an appropriate text for our first week in Lent? It lays out the rules: don’t make a performance out of being good. Don’t call attention to yourself when you are doing something for someone else. Don’t show your compassion only when someone is watching. Don’t focus on how you look when you are helping someone.

Be quiet. Be unobtrusive.

Pray with Simplicity

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

This last verse nails Lent: go to your quiet and secluded place and JUST BE THERE as simply and honestly as you can manage, and shift your focus to God.

Ponder that as you move through your day. When and where can you quiet down your life so that you can sense God’s grace today? When and where can you enter into God’s presence and shift your focus to him?

Lent is calling. Go into your prayer closet and shut the door. Shut down your ego, shut the door on your need for attention, and especially shut out the clamor of the world around you…and simply BE.

https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=23

“Did Anybody Drop This?”

I was buckled in with my cell phone in airplane mode, and my tray table in its upright and locked position. I was ready for takeoff. We had just started to push back when the PA come on and the flight attendant asked, “Did anybody drop this?” Of course everybody looked up, craning their heads around the seats and leaning into the aisles to see. She continued, “OK, now that I have your attention, let’s go over the safety demo.”

Touché! Well played, Southwest Airlines, well played!

If God could completely have your attention, what do you think he would say?

Here’s one thought:

Matthew 6 (The Message)

34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Whoa. Did you hear that? Are you craning your head around all your problems to see what he is saying? Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Whatever it is, God will help you deal with it.

Do you believe that? Do you have a well of trust deep enough that when you dip your worry-bucket in, it comes out filled up to the rim with hope? Yeah, me neither. I mean, it is hard to face your unspoken fears with courage and faith. Instead, our human tendency is to immediately dive deep into fret and worry. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s understandable. And it’s also useless.

Scripture reminds us that God loves the wildflowers he created, and….wait for it…he loves us even more:

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Do I have your attention yet?

So here’s the thing. You know God. You know how he works. Every day you check in here to read, learn, and grow in your understanding of his word. So pick this up today: the best defense against useless worry is to relax in his promises.

Steep your life in God-reality.

Steep your life in God-initiative.

Steep your life in God-provisions.

When you do that, you’ll find all your everyday concerns will be met by the God who loves you, who created you, and who died on a cross for you. Thanks be to God.

Outer Banks Starfish by Michelle Robertson.