Christian Education, Special services

Training Disciples: Lent Week 5

Bless the Lent We Actually Have

by author Kate Bowler

This week: “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”

Song: Pass it On
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it;
You spread God’s love to everyone; you want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring, when all the trees are budding;
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming.
That’s how it is with God’s love; once you’ve experienced it,
You want to sing, it’s fresh like spring; you want to pass it on.

I wish for you, my friend, this happiness that I have found.
God loves you to the end; it matters not where you’re bound.
*I’ll shout it from the mountaintop. I want the world to know
The Lord of Love has come to me. I want to pass it on. 
(repeat from *)

Theme of the week: As Jesus taught us, blessed are those who mourn, yet who would choose that kind of blessing? Jesus, who wept at the death of his friend, understands our tears and broken hearts and unmet expectations. Jesus weeps with us.

Bible reading: John 11:1-45
1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Bible reading: John 15:9-17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Readings: From The Lives We Actually Have; 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie

  • “For when so many are suffering (and you don’t know what to do)” (p156)
  • “For your great, big, dumb heart” (p170)

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.

“Were you there?”: Place yourself in the scene of John 11:1-45. Imagine what it would have been like to have been there, to see Jesus’ tears for his friend. Where are you standing? What do you see? What emotion bubbles up? Think of a time you have experienced such grief and imagine Jesus weeping with you.

We can’t do it all: Grab a piece of paper. Make a list of the people in your life in desperate need of healing or hope — of all the ones you know who are suffering right now. Lift each of them up to God. You can just speak the names you listed to God. No need to fill in any details if you don’t want to. God knows. 

This is a way to overcome the feeling that you can’t possibly make a big enough difference to help all the sick ones, the hurting ones in your awareness. God hears you. And God will act.

Valentines: This week’s theme is “blessed are those who mourn.” Though it may not always feel like it, grief and mourning are expressions of love. Author Jamie Anderson once wrote that “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.” Love that we shared in life continues to shape us and transform us even after we are separated by death.

Think of someone whose love for you made a huge difference. Maybe it was a grandparent or teacher, friend or pastor. What about their love felt transformative?

Take some time and make a Valentine card for them (it’s never too late for a Valentine!). It can be for someone who is no longer with us or someone you have lost touch with. The act of writing the card is as important as the act of sending it. Express to them the way you felt changed by their love. How did it feel to be loved like that?


Song: Day by Day
Day by day, your mercies, Lord, attend me,
bringing comfort to my anxious soul.
Day by day, the blessings, Lord, you send me
draw me nearer to my heav’nly goal.
Love divine, beyond all mortal measure,
brings to naught the burdens of my quest;
Savior, lead me to the home I treasure,
where at last I’ll find eternal rest.

Day by day, I know you will provide me
strength to serve and wisdom to obey;
I will seek your loving will to guide me
o’er the paths I struggle day by day.
I will fear no evil of the morrow,
I will trust in your enduring grace.
Savior, help me bear life’s pain and sorrow
till in glory I behold your face.

Oh, what joy to know that you are near me
when my burdens grow too great to bear;
oh, what joy to know that you will hear me
when I come, O Lord, to you in prayer.
Day by day, no matter what betide me,
you will hold me ever in your hand.
Savior, with your presence here to guide me,
I will reach at last the promised land.

Thank you for joining us for our Lenten midweek journey. We invite you to accompany us during Holy Week, the last stage of our journey toward the cross, and to celebrate with us the joyous feast of Easter. All services will be in person and live-streamed:

  • Palm Sunday: April 2, 9:30am CDT – We join Jesus’ triumphal march into Jerusalem, waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosannas’ that turn into shouts of “Crucify him” as we read the Passion story.
  • Maundy Thursday: April 6, 6:30pm CDT – We sit with Jesus and the twelve at the Last Supper and wash one another’s feet as Jesus commanded us; this service ends in silence with the stripping of the altar.
  • Good Friday: April 7, 6:30pm CDT – We gather silently in the shadow of the cross for a solemn, reflective service on the day commemorating Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • Easter Vigil: April 8, 6:30pm CDT – On the great Vigil of Easter, we gather around the lighting of a new fire to hear the great story of God’s faithfulness, from creation through to the life and death of Christ, as hope begins to shine forth from an empty tomb. This service will also be followed by a celebratory reception — with cake!
  • Easter Sunday: April 9, 9:30am CDT – On this joyful day of days, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Come worship with us! All are welcome — come as you are.

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