Footsteps to Follow
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 original 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, author of Following Christ in a Consumer Society, 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 in the kitchen, or in the family 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.
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 "giving" days of the calendar. At the end of the 40 days give your designated offering to your church.
1. Ash Wednesday. Read Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18. Why have you decided to embark on these 40 days of spiritual disciplines? What fasting or other acts of discipline will you observe this Lent?
2. THURSDAY. Originally Lent was a time of preparation for new converts on Easter Eve. Can you remember when you were baptized, or confirmed? Give a nickel for each year it has been since your baptism or confirmation.
3. FRIDAY. Read the vows taken at your baptism and/or confirmation. Copy them onto a piece of paper. Pray that these 40 days will be a time of relearning the meaning of your baptism/confirmation.
4. SATURDAY. Read Matt. 4:1-11. How and why was Jesus tempted? What were the three temptations?
FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT
5. MONDAY. 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. TUESDAY. A Nigerian proverb reads, "The person who is being carried does not realize how far the town is." Consider how our relative affluence colors our perceptions of poverty and the measures necessary to eradicate it.
7. WEDNESDAY. O God, who led Jesus to the desert give us courage to follow him there and to confront our temptations so that we may be strengthened for service.
8. THURSDAY. Read Matt. 17:1-9. Like the desert the mountain is also a place apart. How is this experience similar to and different from the one in the desert? What is its purpose in Jesus' ministry?
9. FRIDAY. Recall times in your life when God seemed especially close -- your own "mountain top" experiences. Share one of those experiences with someone else today.
SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT
10. SATURDAY. Euphoric ""mountain top" experiences are not unrelated to making hard choices. What choices did Jesus face? (See Luke 9:31 and Mark 9:11-13.)
11. MONDAY. What hard decisions of faith have you had to make? What decisions are you facing now?
12. TUESDAY. O God of the desert and the mountain top, give us the desire to know your will and surprise us with courage to be faithful. Our Father, who art in heaven. . .
13. WEDNESDAY. Read John 4:5-26. In the first century, Jewish men considered it beneath their dignity to speak to women who were not their relatives, nor would they speak to any Samaritan, man or woman. What is the meaning of the way Jesus responds to?
14. THURSDAY. The average African woman must carry water four hours each day. Give fifty cents for each glass of water you drink today.
15. FRIDAY. Is openness toward people who are different, outcast, poor or somehow marginal a source of spiritual nourishment ("living water") and a crucial aspect of Jesus' ministry?
16. SATURDAY. Can we be spiritually inclusive without being socially and I economically inclusive?
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
17. MONDAY. To what extent does our image of ourselves as "chosen people" keep us from hearing what Christ has to say?
18. TUESDAY. O God, break down the walls of exclusiveness we build around ourselves with "the right kind of people" so that we may receive your life-giving water. Our Father, who art in heaven. . .
19. WEDNESDAY. Read the story of Jesus' healing the blind man, John 9:1-41. How many "blind" people can you find in this story?
20. THURSDAY. Why was it so easy for the blind man to recognize Jesus as the Christ? Sing "Amazing Grace."
21. FRIDAY. Did the Pharisees' positions, status, religious traditions and highly developed senses of discrimination render them blind? Are there times when the same things make us blind to whom Jesus really is?
22. SATURDAY. Recall times when -- like the healed man's parents -- fear of the consequences kept you from speaking the truth.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
23. MONDAY. Can you think of instances in history or in your own experience when ideas of spiritual superiority have been used to justify maintaining a privileged position? Give ten cents for each instance you can remember.
24. TUESDAY. Almighty God, whose power can open the eyes of the blind, open our eyes to see your healing power among those and in places we do not expect. Our Father, who art in heaven ...
25. WEDNESDAY. Read the story of the raising of Lazarus, John 11:1-54. Why do you think Jesus didn't go immediately when he heard his friend was sick?
26. THURSDAY. There is a tension between God's love for the world and the fact that illness and suffering are still so much a part of that world. Every day more than 40,000 throughout the world die from deprivation. Give fifty cents for each child in your family.
27. FRIDAY. Jesus did not wait until the last day (vs. 24),he offered a glimpse of the kingdom to come by raising Lazarus. When have you had "glimpses" of that kingdom?
28. SATURDAY. About one million lives are saved each year by vaccines. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, eighty percent of the city's children were immunized by UNICEF. Give ten cents for each immunization you can remember receiving.
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
29. MONDAY. The petition of the Lord's Prayer "Give us this day our daily bread," may also be translated "Give us today a taste of the heavenly banquet to come," meaning something like "Let us see in this day a glimpse of God's will being done on earth." Pray that you will catch that glimpse today.
30. TUESDAY. O God, grant that we not be intimidated by the mystery of your actions but be ready to be surprised by your grace. Our Father ...
31. WEDNESDAY. Read Matt. 21:1-11. What do you think people expected when Jesus entered Jerusalem in the manner he did? What do you think Jesus intended by acting out the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9-17?
32. THURSDAY. Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem? Consider the words of Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, "Jesus presented the ultimate criticism of the royal consciousness... The way of his ultimate criticism is his decisive solidarity with marginal people and the accompanying vulnerability required by that solidarity."
33. FRIDAY. Can you recall times when your identification with people who were suffering meant making yourself more vulnerable? Give ten cents for each such occasion in the past year. Give twenty-five cents for each for each such occasion in the past year when you didn't take the risk.
34. SATURDAY. O God, help us to see beyond the waving of palms to the cost of discipleship. Our Father, who art in heaven. . .
35. Monday. Jesus cleansed the Temple. Read Matt. 21:12-17. In view of the close collaboration between the Temple hierarchy and the Roman authorities, do you think Jesus' action had both religious and political overtones? What did the people mean when they shouted "Praise to David's Son!"?
36. Tuesday. Jesus was questioned about paying taxes to Caesar. Read Matt. 22:15-22. What did his response mean? Before you answer, look at Luke 23:2.
37. Wednesday. Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment. Read Matt. 22:34-40. How did you love God and your neighbor yesterday? Pray to be faithful today.
38. Maundy Thursday. Jesus shares the Passover meal with his disciples and is later arrested. Read Matt. 26:17-75 slowly. Let your imagination relive the events of Thursday evening. Put yourself in Peter's place (vss. 69-75).
39. Good Friday. Jesus is tried and crucified. Read John 18:28-19:42. Take your time. When you finish reading, sing "Were You There?"
40. Easter Eve. This evening, spend at least one hour alone in meditation. Reread your vows of baptism/confirmation. Alone, or with others, reaffirm those vows.
EASTER SUNDAY. Today at breakfast read John 20:1-18 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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