Meditations for Lent 2017 (Series A)
By Rev. Greg Karlsgodt
Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
As we enter the season of Lent we are reminded of our mortality: “from dust you came; to dust you return”. Jesus emphasizes that each one of us stands alone before God and will have to give an account of how we spent our time on earth. Our giving, our prayer life, our sacrifices – all that we may do is for the glory of God. There is a wonderful surprise that comes when we focus our lives on God: we become rich beyond anything this world can offer!
Prayer: Great and generous God, as we begin another Lenten journey to the cross, empower us by your Holy Spirit to gratefully respond to your love and forgiveness by yielding to the way of Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.
1st Sunday in Lent: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus is put to the test after he is baptized and identified as God’s beloved Son. He needs to show that he has a strong enough trust in God to withstand temptations from the devil. The lure of bread to satisfy his hunger, protection from suffering, and the wealth of the whole world are all rejected because his is a much higher calling: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we bow down before you as sinners who continue to allow our needs for worldly comforts and conveniences to take precedence over your calling us to put God and our neighbor first. By your Holy Spirit inspire us to trust in you – especially during times of temptation – to lead us as your servants. In your name we pray. Amen.
2nd Sunday in Lent: John 3:1-17
Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (the highest governing council for the Jews), secretly comes to see Jesus. He is drawn to this great “Rabbi” because Jesus has shown Godly power. What Jesus offers him is more than he imagined: a glimpse of the kingdom of God and abundant life forever!
Prayer: We, O Lord, like Nicodemus, are often near-sighted. We fail to see beyond ourselves. Open the eyes of our hearts and give us a glimpse of the great adventure that your amazing love unfolds before us. In your name. Amen.
3rd Sunday in Lent: John 4:5-42
Jesus breaks through gender, religious, and ethnic barriers to offer this Samaritan woman an abundant, eternal way of life that is free from prejudice and the confines of hatred and injustice. True love and security may be found only in him!
Prayer: We are so grateful, Lord, that you broke down the walls of prejudice and hatred by offering salvation to all people regardless of our past. By your Holy Spirit inspire us to break down those walls as well to offer the Good News to everyone we can. In your name. Amen.
4th Sunday in Lent: John 9:1-41
Take time to read this marvelous story several times. Who are the truly blind ones? Who is on trial here: the man who receives his sight, Jesus, or the Pharisees (“separatists”)? Sometimes we can be so rigidly fixated on certain beliefs that we are blind to the marvelous ways God restores the “untouchables” in our community. Thank God Jesus allows no limitations to his love.
Prayer: Break down the rigid traditions and limitations that keep us from being loving and gracious hosts. Open our hearts to those we tend to disregard. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
5th Sunday in Lent: John 11:1-45
The tension is building. Jesus continues his healing and preaching ministry. Lives are touched and transformed; Lazarus is raised from the dead! But the Jewish leaders are working behind the scenes to kill the Lord of life. Do we trust in human institutions or do we look to God (through Jesus Christ) and his gracious ways to free the paralyzed, feed the hungry, befriend the despised, rescue the lost, and give life to the dead?
Prayer: We follow you to the cross, Lord and Savior, realizing that our narrowness and rigidity contributed to your sacrificial death. By your Holy Spirit transform us into loving members of your search and rescue team. In your name. Amen.
Palm/Passion Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11 and 26:14 – 27:66
The honor the Jerusalem crowd shows Jesus and their plea to save them on Palm Sunday morphs into the hostile cries: “Let him be crucified!” on Good Friday. The Passover meal transformed into the Lord’s Supper, the betrayal by Judas, the spiritual struggle in Gethsemane, the unjust trials, the rejection by his fellow Jews, the humiliation and torture, and the horrific public execution – all of the details of our Lord’s passion – demonstrate in unforgettable ways just how much God loves us and was willing to sacrifice to offer us forgiveness and new life!!
Prayer: May all the events of Holy Week and the story of your passion take on deeper meaning for us, our Lord and Savior, so that we gain a renewed appreciation for your love and grace. Amen.
Maundy Thursday: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The “new” commandment “to love one another” was really a summary of the Ten Commandments. What made it new was the personal way Jesus demonstrated it by his life as a servant and death on the cross. As we partake in the Lord’s Supper, may we relive our Lord’s sacrificial life and death for our sake.
Prayer: Give us a taste, O Lord, of your love, forgiveness, and the unity we share in you as we receive your body and blood. Amen.
Good Friday: John 18:1 – 19:42
Be sure to read the Good Friday story carefully, paying attention to all the details. Here we see humanity at its worst and God at God’s best! The garden where Jesus is arrested is a reminder of the garden in Genesis where Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The Jewish leaders don’t want Jesus’ blood on their hands; so they turn him over to Pilate to be tried and executed. Pilate can find no fault in him but ultimately gives in to the demands of the Jewish crowd and has Jesus brutally whipped and crucified. The chief priests are the ones who utter blasphemy (not Jesus) when they declare to Pilate: “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15c). Two of the Jewish leaders, however, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus get permission from Pilate to bury our Lord’s body “in the garden” (19:41). Behold, God is about to bring about a new creation!
Prayer: In the midst of the horrific cruelty of the crucifixion, O Lord, there is hope for us and the world. In the greatest gift exchange ever known you have taken our sin and death upon yourself and given us forgiveness and life everlasting! Thank you, loving and gracious God.