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135 posts categorized "Lent"

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:43-44


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

To strengthen Jesus, an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

Artists usually portray Luke’s account of the agony in the garden which says that Jesus is kneeling (Matthew and Mark have him flat on the ground).

Also in Luke, an angel appears. The angel is God’s answer to Jesus’ prayer. And the answer is “no.”

God says, “This cup can’t be taken away, but I will be with you through it all.” This is expressed by the angel at Jesus’ side “to strengthen him.”

It is then that Jesus is in agony. Only Luke uses the word “agony” – the word by which we have come to characterize this whole scene.

“Agony” comes from a Greek word describing the mental and physical tension athletes feel when facing a contest. They may be confident, but one can never be sure of all that will happen.

So the prayer of Jesus now takes a different tone. He knows he will have to face the worst. He prays that he will be able to handle it well. And he begins to sweat profusely.

My prayers are often answered the same way as Jesus’ prayer. The answer is “no” . . . but God says, “I’ll be with you through it all.” I’m grateful for God’s presence, of course, but what I sometimes have to face isn’t easy. It’s agony.

This deserves a heart-to-heart talk. With Jesus. He’s been there.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:39-42


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Then going out, Jesus went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:39-42)

Jesus had a strong sense of a God-given purpose in his life:

     • Early in his ministry, when asked to stay in Capernaum, he says, “To the other towns also I must (go) . . . because for this purpose I have been sent.”

     • Later, told of Herod’s death threat, he says: “I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day.”

     • And now, having arrived in Jerusalem and hours away from death, Jesus says to the Father, “. . . not my will but yours be done.”

Perhaps God is nudging me to do something I don’t want to do. From time to time, a certain thought runs through my mind, an inkling to do something (or stop doing something). I shy away from it, slough it off and figure it’s just one of those odd thoughts, daydreams.

But maybe it didn’t come from me. Maybe it came from the Lord. That makes a difference.

Now, early into Lent, I should take a long look at this. If the Lord is nudging me toward something, I ought to do it.


Lent Devotions: Luke 22:35-38


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Jesus said to the apostles, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” “No, nothing,” they replied. He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely, ‘He was counted among the wicked;’ and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.” Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replied, “It is enough!” (Luke 22:35-38)

Earlier, when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, he spoke of “a money bag, sack, and sandals.” Now he speaks of “a money bag, sack, and sword.” He is speaking symbolically, referring to a new time of persecution.

The disciples miss the point, take him literally, and produce two swords. His response amounts to: “Enough of that.”

We’re sometimes taught to be quick with the sword, and we’ve all got our own “swords” – glaring daggers at someone, making cutting remarks.

Throughout this Lent, I’ll watch Jesus face some “swords:” Mockery, manhandling, torture. The early Christians applied a passage from Isaiah to him:

                     He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)

How did he do that? How could I do that? Ask him.

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:17-18


Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord. 

Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22:17-18)

Normally, participants in the Passover meal drank from their own cups. But at the Last Supper, Jesus has the disciples all drink from the same one. On the brink of death, he heightens the closeness of this group with whom he “eagerly desired” to share this meal.

Jesus promises that one day he will drink this cup with them in the kingdom of God. They thought the kingdom would come soon. It didn’t. We’re 2,000 years and counting, and it could be millions more.

Meanwhile, I need to recognize the presence of Jesus on earth. Jesus is not living in retirement, nor is he far away. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles to tell the story of Christ present and active among his people after his death, resurrection and ascension.

Wherever I am as I read this, however distant I might feel from the Lord, one thing is sure: The Lord is with me and wants the same closeness with me as he had with his disciples at that table in the upper room.

Let me enjoy his presence. Just plain enjoy it.

Traveling in the Wilderness

Lenten Prayersstephen

By Robin Stephenson

I love Christmas – the pageantry as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus is certainly something to behold each year. But for me, it is the journey through the wilderness preceding Easter that I anticipate.

Unlike the celebration of Christmas, Lent is a time to look inward and grow closer to God. Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 18 this year, leads us into 40 days of fasting. I know when Lent is coming each year, because as a Bread for the World member, I get a reminder about it in my mailbox.

Each year, Bread mails Lenten Prayers for Hungry People to our members. The “table tents” include a prayer for each of the six weeks in Lent, Bible scriptures and actions that will help in the fight to end hunger.

However, if you didn’t get yours in the mail, you can still get the resource online. Order Lenten Prayers for Hungry People or download a copy here.

I am ready for Lent, and my table tent is ready to inspire me. I’ve put it near my coffee pot, where it is sure to be seen each Sunday. I have also seen them used in churches.  The tent – an aptly named resource for journey – is the perfect centerpiece for a table where congregants gather for Sunday coffee and conversation after worship. Or perhaps your church gathers for midweek Lenten services with a meal, and the tables where people eat are ideal for this resource.

Lent to me is a time to reflect on what living a Christian life means, especially when the world feels so much like a desolate wilderness. I am confronted daily by hunger in the news. Whether it is a refugee family facing hardship and hunger in a strange land, or a hungry child in a classroom, God cares about their welfare.

Lent reminds us that all is not lost in the desert.  We take the journey together, and we take it as followers of Christ. One of the table tent reflections includes a passage from John 12: “Whosoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

As long as we continue in faith as servants answering God’s call to care for the most vulnerable among us, we carry a banner of hope and promise in the wilderness.

Bread for the World will provide more Lenten resources throughout the season. As we do each year, follow Bread Blog for a daily Lenten reflection to inspire you as you journey through the wilderness. 

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.

Lenten Devotions: "Piece of Paradise"

This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).

This post is reprinted, with permission, from Glusenkamp's site, h20 devos. Audio podcast versions of the daily devotionals are also available.


'Adam and Eve' photo (c) 2007, artschoolgirl27 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/First Sunday in Lent

March 9, 2014

"I thought that I had a soul/It turned out to be just a hole in my life/Just a piece of paradise/
Just a piece of paradise
/ Wouldn't that be nice

Everybody’s searching/They were taught to work the land/ Broken hearts and broken hands in their lives/ 
Some want cool and summer breeze/ Some just wait for death’s release from their lives/Just a piece of paradise/Just a piece of paradise
/Everybody’s searching/Wouldn't that be nice”

--Lyrics from "Piece of Paradise," by Peter Mayer, Roger Guth, and Jim Mayer

There are seven words in this song that capture my imagination, “Just a piece of Paradise--everybody’s searching.”  I can hear at the same time the hope and promise of paradise while Peter’s realistic commentary cuts to the heart of the matter: “everybody’s searching.” My sense is that Peter is correct in his observation that everybody’s searching.

All you have to do is look at the topics listed on the magazine covers at the airport to realize that we are a people who are looking for ways to increase our happiness, get more money, , and ward off dementia and other diseases.

Peter accurately diagnoses this issue as a spiritual problem. Evidently something has happened that has made him realize that whatever he thought was, his soul "turned out to be just a hole in my life.”

Today, the Christian Church takes a look at the story of paradise lost in the first few chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve had the peace of paradise and also their own piece of paradise, but they let it slip away.

In 1526, Lucas Cranach the Elder painted  the quintessential painting of what happened in paradise on that particular day. During my visits to London, I always stop in at the Courtauld Institute to see the painting that is at the top of this devotion. Cranach was a contemporary of Martin Luther’s and assisted him in a great many ways. One day, I was at the National Gallery in London looking at Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” when I saw the similarities between Venus and Eve. The Cupid/Venus painting was done in 1525, just a year before Adam and Eve. Compare the neck of the two ladies, the arm and even the fruit of the tree.

Whenever we talk about this account of Adam and Eve in Paradise people always suggest that the fruit they ate was an apple. I think the apple gets a bad reputation from this association, but there is a piece of redemption in all of this as well. If you take an apple and slice it sideways you’ll find a star at the center. So, it is the comedy of the Gospel that the fruit which seems to symbolize what is often called “The Fall” and sinfulness also contains the Star that shown above the Christ Child’s manger.


Years ago, when Peter and I both lived in St. Louis, he often would sing the song “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” during his Advent/Christmas concerts.

Today, I commend Cranach’s work “Piece of Paradise,”  the first three chapters of Genesis, Matthew 4:1-11 and these verses of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.”


40 Days of SNAP: 87 Cents and the End of a Journey

'Jar Full o' Pennies' photo (c) 2008, Jeffrey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They blogged about their journey and shared their stories on the Bread Blog. The family's SNAP challenge has ended—Ivan Herman offers these final thoughts.

By Ivan Herman

87 cents. That’s how much we had left on our SNAP budget at the end of the month.  87 cents.  Not much room for error, and not much of a cushion for frills and extras.

On Thursday we had run out of milk and fruit.  We had $9.27 left in our budget.

I took my son to the grocery store in the afternoon.
$3.49 for milk
$1.95 for six bananas
$1.99 for a whole, fresh pineapple (score!)

I tallied it up in my head: about $7.50, and figured I could buy only two Fuji apples on sale at $1.49 per pound (it came out to $.97).  I asked Robin to pick the two apples.  He plunked two into the bag, then grabbed for a third.
“Sorry, little dude, but we don’t have the money to buy a third apple.”
“But I like apples.”
“Yeah, me too.”  (sigh)

$8.40 for milk and fruit.
$530 for 4 people over 40 days.
$1.10 per person, per meal.
Only $.87 left over.

We ate frugally, but were still able to eat a balanced diet. How easy it would be to miss the target!

On a day when we celebrated the institution of our Lord’s Supper, the feast at my own table looked a bit more meager. At the Maundy Thursday service, as the bread was broken, I hungered for it, both physically and spiritually. The fridge at home had only a half-loaf of homemade sourdough, and some leftover simple drop biscuits. But the bread, juice, and wine at the Lord’s Table held the promise of abundance.

Now Easter is upon us, and abundance is at hand.  May our “Alleluias” in grateful praise bring glory to God as well as food for those who still hunger, for “Alleluias” are not just sung and spoken in devotion and worship, but also acted out in compassion and justice.

Ivan Herman is associate pastor at Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif.

Lenten Reflections: The Missing Station


Bread for the World activists begin their Lobby Day at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Friday, March 29, 2013
Good Friday

Lectionary readings:
John 18:1-19:42
Hebrews 4:14-16

By Adlai J. Amor

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrew 4:14-16)

Growing up in the Philippines, Good Friday always meant Via Dolorosa or Via Crucis – the Stations of the Cross. My strict Anglo-Catholic aunts always made sure that we did not forget that. To avoid being called irihis (heretics), my siblings and I would piously accompany them to church. There they would join other women fervently praying while kneeling on the bare floor before each of the 14 stations.

I never fully understood the value of their ritual or what those images meant. All I knew was that they prayed the Lord’s Prayer, the full rosary, and the Hail Mary in each of the 14 stations. I have flashes of those images: Jesus bearing a cross; Jesus with his mother, Mary; Jesus crucified; and Jesus taken down from the cross.  After the first station, we would be fidgeting on our sore knees— and grumbling that it was cutting into time that we could have spent playing.

It was only when I matured as a Christian that I understood the meaning of Via Dolorosa. It is simply a recreation of Christ’s passion. It is Jesus' ancient journey walked today. The practice of Via Crucis originated in early pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

Franciscan monks were said to have first started erecting chapels depicting scenes from Jesus’ last days. For a long time, only Franciscans—who were given control over the holy sites in Jerusalem —were allowed to build such stations. The chapels eventually evolved into sculptures, plaques, or paintings housed inside the sanctuary—as it was in my aunts’ church. 

Originally, there was no set number of stations but by 1731 the norm was set at 14 stations.  Of this, only 8 have direct biblical references. The others are considered embellishments—Jesus falling three times; Jesus taken down from the cross and laid on his mother’s arms.

But whether based entirely on scripture or not, Via Dolorosa has become one the most popular  devotions for Catholics. Prayed in the spirit of atonement, it helps devotees go through their own Lenten pilgrimage by meditating on the scenes of Christ’s suffering and death.

To this day, I still have to find a good explanation of why the Roman Catholic Church settled on 14 stations in the early 1700s. But in the end, mathematical exactitude does not really matter. It is our faith that matters. Whether we experience this ancient devotion today or read Jesus’ passion in the Bible, it is worth remembering that without Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, we would never have been saved.

Three days later, Jesus’ journey will end. Then we can celebrate the 15th—and missing—station: Easter and His resurrection.

“God as we walk through this day may we remember: Beyond sin there is love inexhaustible;beyond death there is life unimaginable; beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible; beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally. May we remember and give thanks for the wonder of your love. Amen.”  (Christine Sine, Mustard Seed Associates)

Adlai J. Amor is Bread for the World's director of communications and a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change

Photo by flickr user Dyanna Hyde.

The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Susan Herman

I’ve lost four pounds. It’s a good thing; I had them to lose.

Before I go any further I’ll assure you that the kids have not lost weight during our SNAP challenge. About the only thing they’re hurting for is Goldfish crackers. When I take one of them to the store and explain that I’m trying to get the best ratio of nutrients to dollars, thus skipping the snack aisle and the $7.49 carton of colored crackers, there’s usually a pause.

Followed by, “But we’re OUT. We need MORE.”

And as it turns out, I broke down Saturday and bought a small package of the Pepperidge Farm goodies anyway, in honor of a glorious sunny day and family ramble in the Sierra foothills. So our kids are not deprived.

I’ve lost weight by abandoning my habit of drinking a glass (or two) of wine at 9:45 every night. You can’t use SNAP benefits to buy alcohol, and because our simulation has us using only our dedicated food stamp-like budget for all the food and drink we consume, the Two Buck Chuck had to go. I have taken to substituting water or iced tea in a wine glass so I can still go through the ritual of shaping my hand just so and swirling.

Someone asked me recently whether we felt our Lenten discipline was producing permanent change. I told her I hope to say a permanent goodbye to those four pounds, and maybe give them a few more neighbors in Lost Pounds heaven. But I hope for more than that.

Continue reading "40 Days of SNAP: Lenten Discipline, Permanent Change" »

Lenten Reflections: Write It on Their Hearts

Photo by flickr user Mumu X

March 28, 2013
Maundy Thursday

Lectionary readings:

Jeremiah 31:31-34                
Psalm 89             
Luke 22:7-20                 
Hebrews 10:16-25

 By Kathryn Sparks

Littered landscape
Tent home
Grieving mother
Lost child

Heart, write it on my

Worried earth
Hungry tenant
Furious father
Lonely babe

Heart, write it on

Defenseless greens
Overturned shelters
Cold caretakers
In between brothers

Heart, write it
Heart, write

And they shall be my people!

Nowhere but in the full and final forgiveness could I hope to understand:
“This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God…

we are made


Kathryn Sparks is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet.

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