The Road to Jerusalem
A 40-Day Calendar for Lent
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A LENTEN DISCIPLINE. Throughout much of the history of the Christian Church Lent has been a time of fasting and self-examination. The purpose of these acts was to strengthen the identification of the believer with Jesus and thereby increase resistance to the pressures of a pagan culture.
In a modern, perhaps pagan, culture that places high value on immediate gratification, the idea of "disciplines" seems out of place. While "disciplines" in the form of exercise routines are recognized by increasing numbers of people as necessary for good physical health, the need for "disciplines" for spiritual health is not so widely recognized. Observance of a Lenten discipline can be an important way to gain new perspectives about ourselves and what it means to follow Jesus today. It is also a way to help develop what John Kavanaugh has called "a spirituality of cultural resistance." That is the purpose of this 40-Day Calendar.
Lent is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays), beginning with Ash Wednesday. This calendar provides a daily focus for the forty days of Lent. It has ideas, thoughts and prayers for you to share with members of your household. Put the calendar some place where you gather as a household: near the table where you eat, on the refrigerator, or in the television room.
Try to set aside a period of time each day when you will consider the suggestions for that day. This can be done individually or with other members of your household.
The calendar follows the Gospel texts for each week of Lent. Selections are also included for each day of Holy Week. You are invited to read the texts for Ash Wednesday, each day of Holy Week, and Easter Sunday on those days. You are invited to read the texts for each of the other Sundays on one weekday before that Sunday. That way, if your church follows the lectionary readings, you will be reading the Gospel texts during the week before they are read in your church. Special suggestions for meditation and practical ways to participate in the ministry of Jesus are based on those texts.
As part of the Lenten disciplines for each week suggestions are included for ways to contribute to your church's hunger or other justice and peace ministries. Use a milk carton bank, fish bank, clean pop can bank, or some other container to collect your offerings on the days of the calendar. At the end of the 40 days give your designated offering to your church.
1-Ash Wednesday: Read Luke 5:29-35. What is fasting? Why was it inappropriate in this setting? Would certain kinds of people feel unwelcome at a church dinner in your parish? What can you do to help change this?
2-Consider the words of Urban T. Holmes III: "A life incapable of significant sacrifice is also incapable of courageous action." What fasting, or other acts of discipline, will you observe during these 40 days?
3-O God, give us wisdom to know when to feast and when to fast, and let both be for the sake of others.
4-Read Luke 4:1-13. How and why was Jesus tempted? What were the three temptations?
First Sunday in Lent
5-Consider the Desert Fathers who fled to the desert to escape conformity to the world. Their world asked, "How can I gain wealth and fame?" They asked,"How can I love God?" What do you ask?
6-What temptations confront you through TV commercials? Give a nickel for each commercial you see in the next two days.
7-O God, who led Jesus to the desert, give us courage to follow him there and confront our temptations so that we may be strengthened for service.
8-Read Luke 9:28-36. What do you think God's purpose was in this experience?
9-Recall times in your life when God seemed especially close -- your own "mountain top" experiences. Share that experience with someone else today.
10-"Mountain top" experiences are often accompanied by facing hard decisions. What such decisions of faith have you had to make?
Second Sunday in Lent
11-Recall times you have gone to church camps or to retreats. Give a quarter for each one you have attended.
12-O God of wonder and mystery, reveal your will for us, and surprise us with the grace to be faithful.
13-Read Luke 13:1-9. What does it mean to "repent of our sins"? What has it meant in your life?
14-What makes it most difficult for you to repent? Pride? Unbelief? Something else?
15-In the last week, how have you sinned against God and your neighbor?
16-What are sins you have committed by "long distance," i.e. by the stocks you own, by the corporate and government policies you have not challenged?
Third Sunday in Lent
17-Consider the story of the fig tree. Can you imagine that the "Christian Church" might be like that tree? Give 10 cents for each church within 15 minutes drive of your home. Or, give $1 for each of the churches which you have been a member.
18-O God, break down our preoccupation with the sins of others that we may see and confess our own, that our lives may be mended and made fruitful.
19-Read Luke 15:1-3, and 11-32. What meaning do you think this parable had for those who were listening to Jesus? What in this parable is important to you?
20-Do you see yourself more like the child who went to "the far country," or more like the one who stayed home?
21-Why do you think the poor and social outcasts heard Jesus gladly, while the privileged and religious people tended to resent him?
22-Forgiveness is like dynamite. Our pasts, like blocks of granite, do not have to determine our futures. Forgiveness means that the future is open.
Fourth Sunday in Lent
23-Can you remember a time you rejoiced when something good happened to a brother or sister? Give a dollar for each of your sisters and/or brothers.
24-O God, Mother and Father of us all, let us hear and believe the good news that we can come home.
25-Read John 12:1-8. Why did Mary do what she did?
26-What do you think Jesus meant in verses 7 and 8?
27-Consider Thomas Merton's word: "One who has meditated on the Passion of Christ but has not meditated on the extermination camps of Dachau and Auschwitz has not yet fully entered into the experience of Christianity in our time."
28-Do you think the story of Mary and the perfume justifies expensive church buildings and furnishings?
Fifth Sunday in Lent
29-Think of ways that you -- like Mary -- honor Jesus with your time, skills, and money. Give 25 cents for each way you have practiced this in the past week.
30-O God, who loved Jesus, let our love be such that we honor him with the costly fragrances of serving :"the least of these."
31-Read Luke 19:28-40. What do you thing people expected when Jesus entered Jerusalem in the manner he did? What do you think Jesus intended by acting out the Old Testament prophet in Zechariah 9:9-17?
32-Do you agree that sometimes confrontation is the only way to awaken numbed consciences? Do any examples come to mind?
33-Can you recall times when you confronted authorities, not on your own behalf, but on behalf of others?
34-O God, help us to see beyond the waving of palms to the cost of discipleship.
35-Monday. Jesus cleansed the Temple. Read Luke 19:41-48. In view of the close collaboration between the Temple hierarchy and the Roman authorities, do you think the act might have not had both religious and political overtones?
36-Tuesday. Jesus was questioned about paying taxes to Caesar. Read Luke 20:19-26. What was his response? Before you answer, look at Luke 23:2.
37-Wednesday. Jesus speaks about lawyers and widow's mites. Read Luke 20:45-21:4. What about hypocrisy and integrity in your life? How do you teach children the meaning of "hypocrisy" and "integrity"?
38-Maundy Thursday. Read Luke 22:1-65 slowly. Let your imagination relive the events of Thursday evening.
39-Good Friday. Read Luke 22:66-23:54. Take your time. When you finish reading what happened on Friday, sing "Were You There?"
40-Easter Eve. This evening spend at least one hour alone in meditation. Read Psalm 22, the Psalm on Jesus' lips as he hung on the cross.
Easter Sunday. Today at breakfast, read Luke 24: 1-35 and/or the Easter Seder. Consider by yourself, or discuss with household members, what you have done this Lent and what that means for your future as a follower of the risen Lord.
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