Bless the Lent We Actually Have
by author Kate Bowler
This week: “Blessed Are Those Who Feel Alone”
Song: We Will Follow
We will follow, we will follow yo-ou.
We will fo-o-ollow, we will follow yo-ou.
We’re gathered here together to sing aloud God’s praise,
And God is on a pathway to our hearts
Brothers, sisters, on a journey, long and winding road
Faith in God will set our hearts on fi-ire (Chorus)
(Repeat a few times, ending with chorus)
Theme of the week: The pandemic has been like a magnifying glass for the loneliness that was already so pervasive in our culture. According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, we are suffering a pandemic of loneliness. When humans are isolated, every other kind of suffering is compounded, for we are cut off from the compassion and help that others can offer, in a way that often makes us feel cut off from the God of all comfort. Yet God knows our suffering from the inside out. Psalm 23 is a vivid picture of how God comes to be with us as The Good Shepherd who goes out to seek the one who is alone and lost.
Bible reading: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord, and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Bible reading: Romans 12:9-18
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Readings: From The Lives We Actually Have; 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
- “For when you need a little hope” (p40)
- “For truth-telling – however bitter or sweet” (p28)
Reflecting on the readings
You are invited to quietly reflect on the readings by using the following activities, or you may silently meditate on the bible readings or spend time journaling reflections on the texts.
Prayer life check-in: God invites us into prayer and promises to meet us there, a reminder that we are never truly alone. How is your relationship with prayer these days? Circle the statements below that resonate. Reflect on how you would like to feel in your prayer life and then – you guessed it! – take it to God in prayer.
- It comes easily.
- It is difficult.
- I always know what to say.
- I never know what to say.
- I don’t think prayer works.
- I think God listens.
- Prayer makes me feel better.
- I pray whatever comes to mind.
- I prefer scripted prayers.
- I pray when I don’t know what else to do.
- I pray to be changed by God.
- I enjoy praying for myself.
- I enjoy praying for others.
Web of connections: Grab a pen and paper. In the middle of the page, draw something—anything—that reminds you of your situation right now. Give yourself permission to be a little wild. No need to worry about how much it actually looks like the thing you mean it to! Just a playful drawing that maybe only you can recognize. (Yes, that IS a pickle in a jar. Don’t you see it? 😜) Otherwise, if you’re really stumped, you can just write your own name in a circle.
Now, all around your central image or circle, write the names of the people who love you, the people you love. If you feel so moved, add little drawings that represent them as well. Draw lines representing relationships, if you so choose. Draw a line all the way around the edge of the paper; this line represents God — because whether you write a hundred names or you can’t think of a single one, know that you and all the ones you love are held forever and always in God’s web of love.
Admire your handiwork and take a moment to thank God that you are held firmly in such a beautiful web of connection.
Telling the truth: Think of a time when you were able to truly “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). Then think of someone who was able to do the same for you in a time of need. Thank God for the gift of being able to give and receive this kind of presence and compassion. And give thanks to God for unfailingly giving us this kind of presence and compassion, always.
Song: Come to the Water
You said you’d come and share all my sorrows.
You said you’d be there for all my tomorrows.I came so close to sending you away,
But just like you promised, you came here to stay.
I just had to pray.
And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by my side.
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be deni-i-ied.
I felt every tear drop when in darkness you cri-i-ied.
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.”
Your goodness so great I can’t understand,
And dear Lord I know that all this was planned.
I know you’re here now and always will be.
Your love burst my chains and in you I’m free.
But Jesus why me? (Chorus)
Jesus, I give you my heart and my soul.
I know without you I’d never be whole.
Savior, you’ve opened all the right doors.
I thank you and praise you from earth’s humble shores.
Take me I’m yours. (Chorus)