During Lent, we are called to pray, to fast, and to give.
These offerings are the starting point for the daily provisions we
request on our Lenten journey.
Sunday, April 7:
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
Moses commanded us to stone such women.”…“Let the one among you who is
without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:1-11)
chapter of lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s powerful and provocative book, Just Mercy,
is entitled “The Stonecatcher’s Song of Sorrow.” It addresses the privilege and
the risks involved with being a person who stands between those accused and
those all too willing to cast stones. An older woman Stevenson encounters at a
courthouse explains that after her own grandson was murdered, she found her
calling “to be here to catch some of the stones people cast at each other.” It
didn’t matter to her whether the people grieving were with the victims or
perpetrators. Her role was to provide compassion and support to whoever needed
impressed by those who minister in prisons and their willingness to do the
Lord’s work among those whom society has judged as wrong or sinful. I hear from
them about the deep spiritual blessings that come from their work. Not all of us
are called to work with prisoners, but what about with those whose daily lives
are prisons due to immigration issues, bullying, the impacts of bad past
decisions, mental illness? What about hourly-wage workers we see treated with
contempt and disrespect? What about those who treat them that way? It takes a
lot of courage to stand up for those being mistreated or condemned and to those
who mistreat them.
Provision: Pray for the Courage to be a Stonecatcher.
believe most people who are ready to cast stones are wounded as well, so our
willingness to stand in between—to be a stonecatcher--can change their hearts
too. Take some time today to think about situations you’ve encountered where
you’ve been able to diffuse anger, violence, or judgment, and about times when
you’ve walked away, not wanting to get involved. Can you think of any situation
that might benefit from your compassionate, non-anxious presence today? Pray for
the courage and patience you need.
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud:
"I will have no part in the death of this woman."
(Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62)
This riveting, rather lurid story of the false accusation of Susanna is not
found in the Hebrew Masoretic text; it is listed as an appendix in some
Christian Bibles. To use current vernacular, it is like ‘click bait’—a
tabloid-worthy account in which one can see clear parallels to the current #MeToo
movement. But as Scripture, it is the story of God stirring up in a mere youth
the willingness to take a stand against hypocrisy. That too is topical and
relevant. Young people all over the world are rising up, unafraid to point out
the blatant and egregious pretense they see in churches and governments, whether
it is marching to call attention to climate change, raising their voices in
youth religious movements and social justice networks, or using their vote to
elect what many of their elders dismiss as radical voices. It is all too easy
for those of us with what we might call the wisdom of age to just go with the
status quo. This story reminds us that God very often uses the audacity of youth
to shake us up, to wake us up to the duplicity occurring right under our noses.
Today’s Provision: Fast from Accepting the Status Quo.
If you are among ‘the elders’ who tend towards skepticism and the status quo,
open your hearts and minds to listen, to think differently. If you are a youth
fed up and disgusted by the hypocrisy you see, don’t just criticize and dismiss
your elders (which is, BTW, also a form of accepting the status quo!) Build
bridges. Open up to learn the lessons age has imparted to those older than you.
Remember that many of us fought for change years ago as well, and some of the
freedoms you take for granted are borne of battles we waged. And don’t give up.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change
the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
Tuesday, April 9:
But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained
against God and Moses…
disgusted with this wretched food!"
interesting how quickly the manna moves from being a blessed miracle to
something taken for granted to something disdained? Think how fast the latest
phone becomes an outdated embarrassment for our kids, or the newest style
Provision: Give Thanks for the Everyday Gifts.
of life can move yesterday’s luxury to today’s necessity to tomorrow’s burden.
Let’s make a point to start each day giving thanks to God for everything—the
sunrise, the smell of coffee, our very lives. And let’s also remember that
often, the things we tend to gripe about—the line at the grocery store or bank,
the traffic jam, the wait at the doctor’s office, the cost of the plane
ticket—are actually due to our blessings. Instead of complaining, see if you can
give thanks for the everyday gifts God has bestowed on you. Because truly, all
Wednesday, April 10:
true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you will not serve my god… Be ready to
fall down and worship the statue I had made
you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute…”
(Dn 3:14-20, 91-95)
people in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom going about their daily business and then
having to drop everything when some musical instrument randomly starts playing.
I guess it’s not that different from our Muslim sisters and brothers being
called to prayer or the ancient Christian tradition of the Angelus, although
those are at set times of day. Shadrach and his compatriots will not bow down to
any false god, music or no music. I have to smile when I think about how I react
to my phone ‘dinging’ to tell me I have a message or a new Instagram post (or to
do my midday examen!); or when the breaking news story banner runs along the
bottom of the TV screen; or whenever I act instinctively, without prayer and
patience, to some provocation. Are these provocations “gods?” Not likely, yet
they can be big distractions that shift my focus to finding the one, true God in
the present moment.
Today’s Provision: Fast from Auto-Pilot.
This, BTW, is my Lenten fast. I’m doing ok with it, but still at times find
myself going from task to task without stopping to give God thanks and praise.
Thank goodness God has ‘dinged’ me a few times to remind me to refocus my
attention. Is auto-pilot a problem for you too? Try to commit to taking a few
seconds before you move on to the next thing to thank God for being present to
you at this very moment.
Thursday, April 11:
Jesus said to the Jews: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will
never see death." So the Jews said to him, "Now we are sure that you are
(Jn 8: 51-59)
Chapter 8 in John’s Gospel has several references to judging and judgment,
juxtaposing Jesus’ way of the looking at things with the way the Jews and the
elders look at things. The latter attend to what is visible, literal (e.g.,
anyone who says a person won’t see death is obviously possessed.) Jesus and his
Father see and judge, not based on the flesh, but on the heart. They see with
eyes that look beneath the surface and behind the actions that may appear on the
outside to be sinful or wrong. Think of the number of times Jesus gets in
trouble for healing on the Sabbath—an act of a compassionate heart, but a big
no-no in the eyes of the Law.
Today’s Provision: Pray to See with God’s Eyes.
It’s challenging enough to see God in some people. It is even more difficult, at
least for me, to look at others with God’s merciful eyes. I can accept that we
are all made in God’s image and that we are all loved sinners, but it’s another
thing to look beyond another’s surface actions and behavior to see a heart that
is hurting and fearful. I believe Jesus, even with his harsh words to the Jewish
elders, could see into their hearts and accept that “they know not what they
do.” Pray today to see with God’s eyes.
hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce
him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. …
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, let me witness the vengeance you take on
The life of a prophet is never easy. Jeremiah’s so-called friends have abandoned
him and are watching his every move. No one wants to hear bad news or be told
that what they are doing is wrong, so his enemies look for a way to trap him.
Sounds a lot like Jesus’ story…with one big difference: Jeremiah, in his earthly
humanity, looks forward to watching God take vengeance on his oppressors. Jesus,
in his divine humanity, asks God to forgive them.
Today’s Provision: Give Forgiveness.
To be able to truly forgive those who oppose or hurt us requires openness,
vulnerability, and complete trust in God. It does not mean those who have hurt
us are not held accountable for the wrongs they have done. It does mean we take
time to listen to their stories, to hear their point of view, and to release
them and ourselves from the burden of hatred and anger. Forgiveness is a gift we
give not only to the other, but to ourselves as well. Do you carry bitterness
over a past hurt? Pray for the strength to forgive from your heart.
Saturday, March 23:
“I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and
there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations,
and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms…I will make with them a
covenant of peace.”
The United Kingdom of Israel split into two, Israel and Judah, after the death
of King Solomon. One of the main reasons: government taxation. Gee, that has a
kind of familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Most countries in the world today have
at least two factions battling for control and the issues almost always have to
do with money or power. How can we imagine peace between nations when we cannot
even debate peaceful and civilly within our own countries?
Today’s Provision: Pray for Peace within Nations.
Of course, we pray for peace between nations, but given the headlines these
days, I’d say it is more urgent that we pray and work for peace where we live.
It is very discouraging, day after day, hearing the same old rhetoric and
the vitriol that assaults our sensibilities. Instead of demonizing the other
side, can we instead pray for those whose opinions differ from ours? Can we pray
for ourselves, that we remain open and willing to listen? Pray today, not for
others to change their minds, but for all of us to change our hearts and work
for compromise and peace.