Tag: Lent

Mar 9 2011

Lenten reflection: Learning to love others more deeply

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday throughout Lent, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own Lenten journey.

The Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Lent are not subtle.

Right off the bat, in the poetic language of Genesis, we are presented with the destructive force of evil in action.

It is a theme continued in the Gospel, but with a dramatically different result.

The antagonist in both readings is the devil, and his tactic doesnít vary. The temptation he offers, first to Adam and Eve and then to Jesus, is that of godlike power. You have to hand it to Satan for his consistency.

If the devil always seems to play the same card, it is only because it works so well. It sure worked on Adam and Eve, and we know the results.

Their disobedience represents the disobedience of all humanity ñ a sin that has flourished like a rogue weed throughout history and made suffering an accepted part of the human condition.

But Satanís encounter with Jesus turns out differently. Here the tempter doubles, then redoubles, his efforts but in vain. So why did it work before (as it has so often since), but not this time?

The difference is that Jesus knew who he was and what he was called to do. Moreover, he possessed the deep love that enabled him to do it.

Kevin and Gloria in El Salvador

Kevin, a sponsored child in El Salvador, and his mother, Gloria.

In Jesus we see the holiness ñ that is, the wholeness ñ that gave him the wisdom to recognize the tempterís empty promises for what they were.

The irony here is that in refusing the allure of godlike power Jesus proves himself to be truly God-like.

He teaches us that being like God in the authentic sense is not a matter of forcing your will on others but of laying down your life in service of them.

The true power of God is love, and the Lenten journey is one of learning how to love more deeply.

This involves the uncomfortable task of confronting that which is unloving in ourselves, but it is a task we must take on if we seek to become whole human beings.

The CFCA community believes we have something of value to offer on our common journey toward human wholeness. Each of the stories from the CFCA world is, in its own way, about that journey.

They are stories that involve suffering, yes, but they are so much more. Like the story of Jesus in the desert, they are stories about the triumph of loving choice.

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Mar 31 2010

The many reasons people walk

Easter reflection

There are many reasons people walk. Some walk out of choice, others, out of necessity. Along the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:15-35), we meet two people who walked simply to get away. The one in whom they had placed their hopes had just been executed as a criminal, and now his friends ñ and theirs ñ were hiding in fear. Believing that nothing was left for them in Jerusalem but danger and disappointment, they decided to leave.

On the road, they met a stranger. The temptation to wrap themselves in fear and reject the stranger must have been strong, but instead they invited him along. And, as they continued walking, an amazing thing began to happen. Step by step and mile by mile, these two wounded travelers found restored hope in their encounter with this remarkable new companion.

The stranger was really the resurrected Jesus ñ a fact that the two disciples only discovered at the end of the day when they shared a meal. But once they did, they couldnít get back to Jerusalem fast enough, for such was their desire to share the good news.

In life, sometimes we feel as if we are walking toward something, and sometimes we feel as if we are walking away. But when the dust settles, the reasons we walk arenít nearly as important as the fact that we do, indeed, keep walking. For, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is only in the journey that we continue to encounter Christ in traveling companions.

For the next two years, hundreds of sponsors will join CFCA President Bob Hentzen at points along the Walk2gether route from Guatemala to Chile. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, they, too, are discovering a new and glorified face of Christ in the faces of the poor. And, again, like those disciples, they canít wait to take that good news home with them.

As we enter into this beautiful season of Easter, may each of us be blessed with fresh legs and renewed spirits. May we walk as happy wanderers, intent on savoring the blessings of the journey. Whatever sorrows we may be leaving behind, and whatever dreams we may be moving toward, may we always hold onto the joy that comes from knowing that the one who defeated death is our constant traveling companion.

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Mar 24 2010

The poverty and potential

Lenten reflection: Holy Week

At CFCA, we often say, ìWe donít see poverty, we see potential.î It is important to emphasize the hope and possibilities that sponsorship brings to a person and to a family.

However, we, of course, do see poverty. We are walking with the most vulnerable people in the world. To say we do not see the poverty would be to deny their reality, their daily struggles. Doing so would mean glossing over the heroism they show us in overcoming those hardships.

One of the gifts of sponsorship is that it gives us a fuller understanding of that reality. Instead of being apart from the dirt, sweat, smells, hunger and indignities that those living in poverty experience on a daily basis, they let us into their lives so that we can more fully understand their reality. We can see Jesus and the poor walking together and witness their suffering.

As Christians, we cannot have Easter without Good Friday. We cannot truly celebrate the light without honestly, boldly facing the darkness. We cannot celebrate potential without seeing the reality of poverty.

As we enter Holy Week beginning this week on Palm Sunday, let us hold close to our hearts those who live every day the dynamic interplay of Good Friday and Easter. Death, life, doubt, hope, loneliness and community: poverty and potential.

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Mar 18 2010

‘I am doing something new’

Lenten reflection week 5

ìRemember not the events of the past, ?Ö the things of long ago consider not; ?Ö see, I am doing something new! ?Ö Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? ?Ö In the desert I make a way, ?Ö in the wasteland, rivers.î (Isa. 43:16-20)

This section of Isaiah is where words of comfort and encouragement are given to Godís people. They will be in exile for their sins, but they are not to lose faith. God will restore them. That is the beauty of this passage.

It isnít that we are to forget completely what God has done. But all of those miracles in the past — Abraham and his sons, the freeing of the Israelites, parting of the Red Sea — all of that is nothing compared to what God is going to do! He says things will be bad, terrible, in fact, but, be prepared to watch him work and create and restore the likes of which you have never seen!

That is what makes the work of CFCA so exciting on a daily basis. We get to witness every single day Godís movement forward. Growing, creating, surprising and expanding His kingdom through the work of our sponsors and our sponsored friends. Look at the faces of the sponsored children and think, ìI am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?î

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Mar 10 2010

The abundant life of Easter

Lenten reflection week 4

When you hear the word, prodigal, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The answer is probably the parable we hear this week (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32), commonly known as “The Prodigal Son.” In fact, the word is so well-associated with that story that you might have a hard time coming up with another context in which it is used.

For the record, prodigal means wasteful, excessive or lavish. In reference to the Gospel story, it describes an ungrateful child who leaves home, squanders his inheritance on extravagant living and learns the hard way that life back home wasnít so bad after all.

The story, as we all know, ends with the son repenting and being welcomed back into the family by his joyful father. But there is irony in this ending, for the father celebrates his sonís homecoming with some extravagance of his own. He kills the fatted calf and throws one heck of a homecoming party.

So, is the sin of prodigality (yes, it is a word) really the point here? After all, in the scriptures, extravagance is a quality often associated with God himself. Perhaps the real failure of the prodigal son wasnít so much his lifestyle as his lack of appreciation. He didnít appreciate his good fortune because he hadnít earned it, and that is why he made such poor choices in how he spent it.

When sponsors visit CFCA projects, they often comment upon the deep gratitude of sponsored persons. Although these hard-working families have little in terms of material possessions ñ or, perhaps, because of that fact ñ they are filled with genuine appreciation for what sponsors contribute to their lives. As a result they, like the prodigal sonís father, have the wisdom to recognize a true occasion for joy when they see it.

May this season of Lent bring each of us to a sacred place where we can truly enjoy the abundant life of Easter ñ that life which our extravagant God is just aching to share with us.

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Mar 3 2010

Sharing the water

Lenten reflection week 3

The fact that she was coming to the well in the noonday sun was a tipoff. The ìrespectableî women of the village all came out in the cool of the morning to draw their water and gossip. So, being one of the more popular subjects of their gossip, this Samaritan woman preferred to come at noon when nobody else was supposed to be around.

Except that day, somebody else was around ñ Jesus. He was sitting right there by the well where she couldnít avoid him. And just when she had decided to quickly get her water and get out of there before anybody saw her alone with this Jewish man (the last thing she needed with her reputation), he had the nerve to ask her for a drink of water!

She could have ignored him. She could have waited for him to leave. She could have turned around and gone home. But there was something about this stranger that compelled her to engage with him in conversation. That choice made all the difference.

What follows in this marvelous story from Johnís Gospel (John 4:5-42) is a tale of living water, of death to the mistakes of the past, and a community transformed through the leadership of its least likely member. And all because one man asked one woman for a drink ñ and because that woman had the courage to push her comfort zone and make a graced connection.

At CFCA, we like to say we see potential instead of poverty. We learned that from Jesus, who always managed to see through the trappings and the labels into the true heart of a person. It really doesnít take any special ability to do that, but it does take faith.

So, whoís asking you for a drink of water today?

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Feb 24 2010

When life gives you lemons

Lenten reflection week 2

By Kelly Demo, CFCA preacher

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This may be a simplistic and even Pollyannaish way of looking at hardships. But the fact , I think, is that God may have inspired that saying because of all of the wonderful, miraculous things that he does.

Making lemonade out of the lemons we call our lives is what God does best. No matter how badly we mess things up, or try to, in the end, God can turn our hardships into something positive.

We see it time and again in scripture. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. Did God really want that to happen? I doubt it. But, God used that chain of events to save his people from starvation, to bring them into Egypt, and ultimately, to claim them as his own. Godís will would not be thwarted.

In the Gospel of Luke (13:31-35), we see Jesus being pretty clear that he has a plan, and no one is going to derail it. Herod is turning up the heat on Jesus, and Jesus tells him, in no uncertain terms, that he will finish his ministry on his own terms. God gave him a job to do, and he intends to do it.

Lent is a great time to reflect on Godís will for us in our lives. How do we try to thwart Godís plans for us? How has God pursued us to make his plans come to fruition? What is God’s plan for our lives?

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