I had planned to write this post today, but in the hours before I could sit down to write, I learned of the very tragic death of a friend. Granted, I hadn’t seen this friend in person in about ten years, but Facebook allowed us to stay in touch as I viewed his photos and updates. And Facebook provided the news this morning of his death, as well as a steady stream of grief posts pouring in. The gift of social media.
All of this leaves me in a somber mood, which is appropriate for the entry into Lent. This is our time to journey towards the cross with Jesus, to watch as the Son of God does his best to help us see God and prepare for the Kingdom, even as he knows the people he loves will betray him. Even as he anticipates the pain and suffering that await him. It is never an easy journey. Not for him. Not for us. It always ends in death.
True, death does not have the last word, but it’s too soon to talk about that. For now, we must walk faithfully beside Jesus, preparing to carry our own crosses up to Golgotha. This is a time of introspection: going inward to listen for ways God is calling us to be like Christ. It’s also a time to look outward and see the pain and suffering of those around us; to understand how to be like Christ for them. This is hard because it involves death: the death of old patterns and attitudes and beliefs that prevent us from being like Christ and seeing God’s presence in our life and the world.
It’s popular for folks to “give up” something for Lent: chocolate, social media, television, etc. Others “take on” something, such as a prayer discipline, service projects, etc. These Lenten disciplines of giving up or taking on are valuable as long as they help us on our journey. Do they help us listen for God’s voice in our lives? Do they help us live out Christ’s presence to the world? Do they challenge us to live more faithfully?
This morning I began reading Christine Valters Paintner’s The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within. This quote, an epigraph for the Introduction, struck me:
To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim. – Mark Nepo, The Exquisite Risk
As did this quote by Christine on page 2:
A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into this experience of unknowing and discomfort for the sake of stripping away preconceived expectations. We grow closer to God beyond our own imagination and ideas.
This Lent, I invite you to be pilgrims with me on the journey towards the cross; to take up Lenten practices that will strip away and cleanse and change us. This journey will be difficult and uncomfortable. We won’t always know where we’re going. But with each step we will grow closer to God in ways we never expected. Then we can proclaim God’s transforming presence with us even in the midst of pain and tragic loss.
A Lenten Prayer Bead Devotion
Cross: God of the journey,
Invitatory Bead: be with us as we walk
Resurrection Bead: with your Son towards the cross.
First Cruciform Bead: May we heed your call to be pilgrims.
Week Beads, First Set: Use each bead to listen for God’s call to pilgrimage for you.
Second Cruciform Bead: May we engage in practices that make us more like Christ.
Week Beads, Second Set: Use each bead to consider what Lenten practice(s) you may choose to follow Christ more faithfully.
Third Cruciform Bead: May we remain faithful in our journey, knowing there will be times when we stumble, backtrack, or become lost.
Week Beads, Third Set: Use each bead to ask for God’s help in remaining faithful throughout this journey, particularly when it becomes difficult.
Fourth Cruciform Bead: May we grow closer to you each day, beyond our own imagination and ideas.
Week Beads, Fourth Set: Use each bead to focus on God and observe ways you are growing closer to God each day.
Resurrection Bead: In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,
Invitatory Bead: who calls us to journey with him to the cross.