Lent is a time for drawing closer to God. It is a time for quieting all the voices around us and within us so that we can hear the still, small voice of God speaking to us. It’s a time when we put away some habits (have you given up chocolate or meat for Lent, or perhaps given up on ceaselessly scrolling through social media?) and when we take on new habits (perhaps praying more consistently, or sitting down every night for dinner with our families, or reading a certain book). At Allin Church, we’re here to support each other in this work of drawing closer to God.
The kids have taken on some new practices in Sunday school: each week, we’re walking the big canvas labyrinth. It’s a way for us to slow down, and the kids have told me it’s helping them listen to God more. As we walk the labyrinth, we’ve thought about our sins and mess-ups, and asked God to remind us of God’s love for us. We’ve also walked the labyrinth and asked God to show us how to follow Jesus better. Friends, we should all be in awe of our kids: they are wise and faithful, and they are eager to learn more about God.
We’ve also taken on the practice of lighting candles as we pray at the end of Sunday school. The candles are beautiful and a little bit dangerous, so it reminds us that prayer is a lovely and risky and important thing. Our kids are praying for their classmates, for their own selves, for the disadvantaged, and for God’s peace to come into this world. I’m grateful for the light we see in our young ones. If you want to follow their lead, you can light candles of your own at home—you’ll find it’s a different and lovely way to pray.
We’re supporting the adults in their Lenten practices by offering a Bible-and-book study. We’re reading and praying through the Gospel of Mark, and reading through Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited. We do this because we long to know Jesus better. We study how he spoke to the disinherited ones of his time—the outcasts and the sinners and the poor people—and we hope that this shows us how we ought to live in our world, today.
You are so welcome to join us: Cheryl leads discussion on Tuesday mornings at Allin Church at 9:15-10:15am, and I lead the discussion on Thursday evenings at Stratford Street United Church at 7-8pm; folks from both churches come to both meetings. If you can’t commit to joining the group, would you consider reading and praying the season’s gospel passages with us? We’re using gospel contemplation as a type of “holy reading” an imaginative way to engage with Bible stories that help us to “live in to” the stories, and come to know Jesus in a deeper way. Here’s how to do it:
- Select a passage from one of the Gospels.
- Recall what you are doing in engaging with the Word of God and what one desires from this encounter. God is present and because God is present one relies on God.
- Read the Gospel passage twice so that the story and the details of the story become familiar.
- Close your eyes and reconstruct the scene in your imagination. See what is going on and watch the people in the scene. What does Jesus look like? How do the others react to him? What are the people saying to one another? What emotions fill their words? Is Jesus touching someone? As you enter into the scene, sometimes there is the desire to be there. So, you can place yourself in the scene, perhaps as an observer, as one lining up for healing, or as one helping others to Jesus.
- Some people’s imaginations are very active so they construct a movie-like scenario with a Gospel passage. Others will enter the scene with verbal imagination, reflecting on the scene and mulling over the actions. Vividness is not a criteria for the effectiveness of this kind of prayer. Engagement is and the result is a more interior knowledge of Jesus.
- As you finish this time of prayer, you should take a moment to speak person to person with Christ saying what comes from the heart.
Our readings, if you want to follow along with the group and with the worship:
Week of February 25—March 3: Mark 1:16-20
March 4—March 10: Mark 5:1-20
March 11—March 17: Mark 7:1-15
March 18—March 24: Mark 11:15-19
March 24—March 31: Mark 11:1-4