Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
Before we immerse ourselves in the events that took place both within and without Jerusalem’s walls, with the cry of “Crucify him” ringing out across the city, we should take time this week to read two ancient passages that direct our attention towards the cross. Whilst being the embodied fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies, the likes of which we have read today, we see that Jesus was also versed in the Biblical narrative. He, from the cross, bursts into the lament song we read yesterday.
Echoes of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 can be found right in the middle of the book of Lamentations; a series of five poems penned by an anonymous author who reflects upon the heartache of exile. Wilderness experiences call for honest wordsmiths. This poet does not hold back his protests or the expression of his confusion.
Last week, a friend of mine asked me why I’ve taken time to help guide us through this season of lent.
“I just want us to be more honest,” I replied, before going onto say something along the lines of:
“For when we are honest with God, we can truly begin to hope in Him.”
Lent teaches us that all of life is a valid entry point into an authentic relationship with Love himself. We must rediscover the daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms that get the awareness of His presence into our bones. Fake personas cannot be transformed. Only real humans can. When you get to grips with who you are and what you have been through, and realise who is leading you into the future – there is a character that can be marked by honest hope.
A character that is open to becoming more like our Shepherd, who guides us through all of life’s paths, never leaving us behind.
A few hours after speaking with my friend, Emma shared with me a passage of scripture she had been reading earlier that day from the middle section of Lamentations. Today, I want to share it with you, quoting it at length. This passage sums up everything I have wanted to share with you this lenten season and puts ancient words to my prayers behind the scenes for you, my family.
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.
When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst.
Why? Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
Lamentations 3: 19-32 [The Message]
We have covered a lot of ground over the past few weeks. As we look ahead to the changing of the seasons this Sunday, from Lent, to Eastertide, I want to encourage you to take time this Holy Week to go off by yourself, enter the silence, and bow in prayer.
As you listen and as you pray, consider what deeper invitation Jesus might be extending to you at this time in your life.
With the cross on your horizon, may you see there is grace within honesty.
And may we live as open as the tomb itself, gripping its hope.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you today, without reservation and with humble confidence, for you are my loving Father.
Set me free from self-consciousness, from anxiety about tomorrow, and from the tyranny of the approval and disapproval of others, that I may find joy and delight simply and solely in pleasing you.
May my inner freedom be a compelling sign of your presence, your peace, your power, and your love. Let your plan for my life and the lives of all your children gracefully unfold one day at a time.
I love you with all my heart, and I place all my confidence in you, for you are my Abba.
Into your hands I commit my spirit.
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.