Bless the Lent We Actually Have
by author Kate Bowler
This week: “Blessed Are the Curious”
Song: Dance with Me
This is holy time.
We’re gathered together to worship you,
to love one another.
And as we pray,
and as we sing,
and as we dance,
and as we dream,
oh, Lord, I beg of you
just this one thing.
Won’t you dance with me?
Throughout the heavens
And below the sea
And up on the mountaintop
Flow with the breeze.
Come carry me.
Lord, won’t you dance with me?
Repeat all the way through once or twice
Theme of the week: Sometimes we will never get the answers we long for. As theologian Stanley Hauerwas says, “The ability to live well is the ability to live without explanation.” Yet blessed are we in our curiosity and confusion, who allow ourselves to live into the mystery. We who trust that God will stay true to God’s promises to us—to love us, to never leave us, to save us through God’s son Jesus Christ.
Bible reading: John 3:1-17
1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Bible reading: Isaiah 43:1-7
1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my sight and honored and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Readings: From The Lives We Actually Have; 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie
- “For when you feel stuck” (p148)
- “For when you’re feeling grouchy” (p140)
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 write your reflections on the questions you hold in your heart for God, trusting in God’s love even if the answers to your questions elude you.
Silent prayer: “Redeemed.” It’s a word we use today only transactionally, like when we have a voucher we redeem for a discount. But in Isaiah 43, the meaning is love in action. It is what God did through Jesus, whose dying became our living. Re-read and savor this passage, inserting your name:
“I have redeemed you, ____________. I have called you by name, ____________. You, ____________, are mine.”
Bring all your frustrations out into the light of this unconditional love for you.
Focusing prayer: Take a moment to notice how and where in your body feelings of frustration or fear affect you. Ask God to comfort you there.
Getting unstuck: Sometimes you just need to get out of your brain and into your body. Walking a prayer labyrinth can be a wonderful, meditative practice for connecting with God in a fresh way. While we don’t have a large labyrinth to walk here at St. John’s, you can choose whatever you’re comfortable doing from the body prayer activities on the handout instead.
Other Body Prayers
Like Nicodemus, we can sometimes get stuck in our own heads, or stuck in a particular way of thinking that keeps us from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace and love for us. These prayers are an invitation to get out of your head and to get curious about what God’s Spirit is sending you today. Give them a try.
This can be done indoors or outdoors. For tonight, we will do our walking in the sanctuary (please be mindful of any other walkers as you choose which direction and how quickly you walk). Allow your mind to clear and invite God to walk with you. Focus on the sensations of your body as you walk. Notice your breath. Notice the rhythm of your heartbeat. Feel the ground each time your foot connects with it. Be aware of God’s presence.
Trinity Pose Prayer
Standing or seated, move your body through the following poses, praying the short prayer that goes with each one. Really stretch out your arms to feel the wideness of God’s mercy and the freedom of God’s grace.
- “I give praise to God the Creator who made me”
- Reach arms up, palms forward, fingertips stretched toward the heavens
- “I give thanks to God the Redeemer who saved me”
- Reach arms out to the sides, palms forward, stretching out hands like Christ on the cross
- “I surrender to God the Spirit who sustains me”
- Lower arms to your sides, palms forward, tip your head back, pushing hands back and chest out
- “In the name of the Triune God, amen.”
- Bring hands up and press palms together in front of your chest in traditional prayer pose
- (repeat as many times as you like)
Body Confessional Prayer
- Clench your hands into fists. In your mind’s eye, put all that comes between you and God in your clenched hands – all your sin and brokenness, all your stress and anxiety and worry and struggle – hold all these things tight right here in your fists.
- Whenever you are ready to let these things go, open your hands, palms upward, and offer them all to God. Allow God to take them from you. Receive God’s forgiveness where you need forgiveness.
- Now that your hands have been emptied, cup your hands to receive God’s blessings.
- As you finish your prayer, press your palms together in front of your heart in a traditional prayer pose as you express your gratitude to God
- (repeat as often as you’d like)
One of the simplest ways to tune in with your body and with God’s presence. The very simplest way is simply to clear your mind and focus on your breath. You may also wish to pray a short phrase on your inhale and exhale. The following are some examples you could pray:
- Mothering God, you are here
- Breath of Christ, breathe in me
- Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us
Or choose your own – breathe in as you pray whatever name or title for God most speaks to you, then breathe out a short, simple prayer (no more than 2-4 words) of what you need in this moment.
click here to bring up a labyrinth you can follow online
- Begin by placing your finger at the opening at the bottom of the labyrinth.
- Trace your finger around the labyrinth slowly and meditatively, until you reach the center.
- You may wish to choose an intention – a word or a phrase or a specific want/need you wish to take to God – to focus on as you make your way toward the center
- You may also simply focus on God’s presence, as well as your breath and the feel of your body
- Pause to be still in God’s presence at the center of all things.
- Then, slowly and meditatively, retrace your path until you exit the labyrinth once more.
As you move out of the labyrinth, give thanks for God’s loving presence with you in every minute of every day. Take this feeling of peace and gratitude with you.
Song: Thy Word
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
When I feel afraid, I think I’ve lost my way,
Still you’re there right besi-i-ide me.
Nothing will I fear, as long as you are near.
Please be near me to the e-e-end. Refrain
I will not forget your love for me, and yet,
My heart forever is wa-a-and’ring.
Jesus be my guide, hold me to your side.
I will love you to the e-e-end. Refrain
You’re the light unto my path.