Learning the Meaning of Ministry
A 40-Day Calendar for Lent
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The Season of Lent
Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays), beginning with Ash Wednesday. Early Christians used Lent as a time of fasting and reflection for new converts, for preparation for baptism on Easter Eve and for help with resisting assimilation into popular culture. Focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus during Lent reminded Christians what it meant to be followers of Jesus.
Current cultural inroads into Christianity in America make the serious observance of Lent important to gaining new perspectives in what it means to be followers of Jesus today.
The 40 Day Calendar
This calendar is full of ideas and thoughts for you to talk about with members of your household. Put the calendar some place where you gather as a family: near the table where you eat, on the refrigerator, or in the television room.
Designed to begin with Ash Wednesday and to conclude on Easter Eve (exclude Sundays), you may start the 40 days anytime. Mark the date in the first square and go from there. One Bible reading -- the Gospel passage from the Lenten Lectionary -- is included for each week. Special suggestions for meditation and practical ways to participate in the ministry of Jesus fill out the rest of the days of the week.
Participate by Learning
Each week, one of the activities can be related to a country in the Third World. Select one country to follow through the 40 days. Your denominational hunger office may be able to help with your selection and to give you pertinent facts about that country. Look over the 40 days now so you can see what materials you will need. Visit your public or church library for needed information.
Participate by Giving
One way to be active in the ministry of Jesus is to contribute to the hunger program or other justice and peace ministries of your denomination. Use a milk carton bank, fish bank, clean pop can bank, or some other container to collect your pennies, nickels, and dimes as you share the days on the calendar with your family. At the end of the 40 days give your designated offering to your church.
1-Ash Wednesday-Read Matthew 6:16-21. What is fasting? What does Jesus ask us to do if we fast? Think about how, you might fast during Lent.
2-At this how many different noises, can you hear? Turn off those you can control. Can you "turn off in your head" those you don't control? Give 10 cents for each noise you hear.
3-Children are the ones who suffer most from hunger. 40,000 children die every day from hunger related causes. (UNICEF) Give the cost of every soft drink you decide not to consume this week.
4-PRAY: O God, you know us for who we are. Call us to acts of self-denial in which we may identify with your Son and all who suffer. Save us from our ignorance, excuses and pretensions, so that we may truly grow in spirit and commitment. Amen.
5-Read Matthew 4.1-11. How was Jesus tempted in his 40 days in the wilderness? How did he resist? What are some of your own temptations?
6-Jesus dismissed Satan with the words "Scripture says we are to worship God and serve God only." As a family group, see if you can make a statement about serving God. Give 5 cents for each Bible or New Testament in your home.
7-Draw or find a map of the Third World country you have chosen to focus on these 40 days. Put it up near the calendar
8-What is the chief food (protein source) in the country you have chosen? What is ours? Plan a nutritious and enjoyable meatless meal for your family. Give the money you saved on meat.
9-"I want my congregation to be as well prepared, equipped and organized to serve the poor as they are to celebrate the Eucharist," said a bishop in Colorado. What temptations keep us from serving the poor?
10-PRAY: O God, whose wisdom and power know no limits, help us resist the temptation to serve ourselves in your name, that you may prepare us to do your work in the world, even as did your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
11-Read the story of Nicodemus in John 3:1-17. What does it mean to be "reborn"? What does it mean for the way we look at the world? At other people? Give 5 cents for the birth date of each friend and relative you can remember.
12-Look at baby pictures of yourself. Any resemblance to you now? Look at a snapshot from a year ago. What does it mean to "grow" after a person has reached maturity?
13-Pray for the people of the country you have selected. How many children there under the age of 1 year die for every 1,000 live births? How long do most people live?
14-"All beginnings are hard," says novelist Chaim Potok, "especially a beginning that you make by yourself." Read Genesis 12:1-8. What are the "beginnings" you have made in your life?
15-Being "reborn" means having as brothers and sisters all of God's children. Does your church have, or work with, a food pantry? Plan to give the foods needed. Ask others to give.
16-PRAY: O God, Giver of life and light, call us from our wombs of security and isolation to rebirth into the world you are creating; call us from the darkness of our fears and anxieties to the daytime of hope and confidence in your ministry. Amen
17-Read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4:5-26 (27-42). Find out who "Samaritans" were. How was the way Jesus treated her different from other "religious" people of his time?
18-Remember a time you felt excluded from some group. Think about how you felt. Share that. How many pictures of people are hanging in your home. Give 5 cents for each one where the people are only the same race as you.
19-Do you know of a person who is shunned and left out? Pray for this person. Is there a natural way to have a conversation (eat lunch together, take a walk)?
20- What groups are excluded, or left out, in our society? Volunteer for one day in a nursing home, one night in a shelter for homeless people, or one meal in a soup kitchen.
21- What racial or ethnic groups make up the country you have chosen? Who are the poor and outcasts in that country? Give 10 cents for each racial and ethnic group you identify.
22-PRAY: O God, Parent of us all -- Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, Female, Male, Privileged and non Privileged -- break down the walls of exclusiveness we build around ourselves with "the right kind of people" so that we may receive life-giving water from your Son. Amen.
23-Read John 9:1-41. Besides "the man born blind," who else in the story was "blind?"
24-Try to imagine what it is like to be blind. Keep your eyes closed for five minutes while someone leads you around. Take turns eating a meal blindfolded. How did it feel?
25-Are eye diseases and blindness prevalent in the country you have chosen? What can be done about it? Put 5 cents in for every color you can see from where you are sitting.
26-Sometimes government leaders, like all of us, are "blind" to the suffering of others. Join Bread for the World (800-4BREAD) so you can learn how you can help your representatives to "see."
27-Jesus broke the law to heal the blind man. Do you know of any other people who have broken laws to minister to others? Why did they do it?
28-PRAY: Almighty and Merciful God, whose power can open the eyes of the blind, open our eyes to see your healing power in places we do not expect, so that instead of opposing you we may be numbered among those who minister in your name. Amen.
29-Read the story of Lazarus in John 11:1-45. Also read Ezekiel 37:1-14. Can God change things in our lives today? Sing "D'em Bones."
30- Why was Martha so afraid to roll away the stone? Why might we call her a "nose holder," instead of a "stone roller?" Have you ever been either?
31-List 10 changes that would make your community a better place for everyone. Give 10 cents for each change you can help bring about. Give 25 cents for each one you don't see how to help.
32-What debts does your family have? Find out about the international debt crisis. How is it affecting the country you have chosen? What can be done about it?
33-Find out about the debt crisis of U.S. farmers. Draw a picture of a farm. Give 10 cents for each fresh vegetable and fruit you ate today.
34-PRAY: 0 God, as we seek to labor in the ministry of your Son Jesus, grant that we not be nose-holders but stone-rollers, ready to be surprised by the mystery of your actions. Amen.
35-Read Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus' going to Jerusalem was a challenge to the authority of those who opposed his ministry Why did he go ?
36-Why were some people opposed to Jesus' ministry?
37-On the night he was arrested, Jesus prayed "yet not what I want, but what You want." (Matthew 26:39) When, in your participation in Christ's ministry, have you prayed this prayer?
38-Maundy Thursday-Learn about Passover and plan a Passover meal. How is it related to our celebration of the Lord's Supper?
39-Good Friday-What does it mean for you to participate in Christ's ministry? Would you change the statement you made on Day Six? Sing a song.
40-Easter Eve-PRAY: O God, who called your son to go to Jerusalem, as we prepare to celebrate Easter, help us to see beyond the waving of palms and lilies to the cost of discipleship. Amen.
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