April 2014

Holy Week Reflections
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Palm Sunday: April 13
Holy Trinity Church (Livingstone)
2987 Mesa Verde Drive East, Costa Mesa
9:15am Service

Children & Youth Ministries, Nursery Care provided.

Maundy Thursday: April 17
Rock Harbor
3095 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa
7pm Service

Youth with families.
Nursery Care (infant – 4 yr) & Childcare (5-10yr) provided.

Good Friday: April 18
Rock Harbor
3095 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa
7pm Service

Youth with families.
Nursery Care (infant – 4 yr) & Childcare (5-10yr) provided.

Holy Saturday: April 19
Rock Harbor
3095 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa
7pm Service

Youth with families.
Nursery Care (infant – 4 yr) & Childcare (5-10yr) provided.

Easter Sunday: April 20
Rock Harbor
3095 Redhill Ave., Costa Mesa
**10am Service**

Youth with families.
Children Ministry, Nursery Care provided.


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The Afternoon of Lent

After years of living through days, I’ve observed that afternoons are hard for me.

I prefer mornings; they hold more promise. In the a.m., I am energized by a new start, the vision of achievement, or maybe I am simply lifted by the vaguely purposeful parade of people heading out to work or to school or to their tasks and errands.

But in the afternoon, everything seems to slow to a crawl. What I set out to do in the morning has taken more time than expected. I’ve hit a few obstacles and must again confront my limits. The vision I began with has grown hazy or distant. Nothing is quite as meaningful as it was a few hours earlier. I sit in my house or cubical or car casting about for something inspiring but end up rearranging my desk or rereading old emails. The sun, high in the sky and glaring through my window, has not moved for a while. Time appears to be standing still. And there are yet hours before the novelty of night brings its cool release from day. Meanwhile, nothing satisfies, and I feel mildly depressed.

The desert fathers sometimes called this mood and its attendant temptations ‘the noonday demon.” Over time, it can tempt us to the vice they called acedia—which can look either like apathy or nervous busyness, each of which arises from the same source– a lost vision of (or resistance to) God’s will for us each day.

This can occur not just on particular days but in particular seasons during our “long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life. And it can occur in season of Lent. After the initial promise of a new spiritual discipline and still before a vision of its fruit (or at least its end), we often must move through the “afternoon of Lent.” Like my afternoons above, we sometimes can’t remember—or at least feel—the point of cutting back on Netflix or reading each day’s psalm. We’ve lost a vision of what these were supposed to achieve. In the afternoon of Lent, our disciplines and detachments begin to feel trivial and paltry next to the world’s real needs and problems. We feel spiritually small. We long for the dramatic, to accomplish great feats, to be influential, to turn stones into bread.

At this point it is good to remember that, in Scripture, the small is no less important for being small. In the mustard seed, the one coin, the few loaves and fish, the still small voice– something is beginning that may blossom out surprisingly and disproportionately. Through these small acts, something large is being nudged over in us—a habit, a resistant will, a deep attachment. And who’s to say what might come from this? A kinder word, a more patient response, a wiser choice, an embrace, a gift, a taste of life, a step back from sin, a death to self, a break in the chain and a glimpse of freedom. Who benefits? Not just us. A spouse, a child, a roommate, a friend, a stranger, the pale girl on the screen, that man on the street, a descendant, our children’s children. Where our small act of obedience goes we cannot say because the Spirit, which is at our back, is like the wind. As Dostoyevsky writes, “all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world.” Or as Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn. 12:24).

Of course, we may know nothing about the fruit of our devotion. But in the afternoon of our weakness, like Paul we may hear God say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). And growing in grace is no small thing.

– Todd Pickett

Lent Reading: Sunday, March 30

Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-9; Psalm 139:13-18; John 13:1-5

Reflection Questions:

Dallas Willard asserts that human beings are: Never ceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.

C.S. Lewis described us like this: There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, and civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

  1. Consider these thoughtful statements about humanity, who is created by God in the Divine Image, as you read our Scripture passages this week. What do you discover about human existence? What do you discover about your life in relation to God?
  2. How do these passages of Scripture expand the value of your life?
  3. How do these passages of Scripture enhance your sense of security in life as a child of God?

– Elizabeth Khorey

Stop Talking. Just Listen.

“So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20-24)

This story is an excerpt from Jesus’ parable of the lost son. Most of us know how it goes: The son asks for his inheritance from his father, a gift that should have only been given upon the father’s death. The son is granted his request, wastes no time in squandering it all, and finds himself with a ruined life. At the lowest point of his desperation, he decides to come home and ask his father to accept him back again, not as a son, but instead as a hired servant.

On his way home, the son practices his speech: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” I suspect that he went over his confession a number of times, making sure he got it right, anticipating a short and hostile reception from his father.

But when the father receives the son, the reception is neither short nor hostile. To the son’s apparent surprise, the father embraces the son and kisses him. And when the son starts talking, the father doesn’t even let him finish his well-practiced speech. He cuts him off half way through and orders his slaves to get everything ready for a big party.

The son came to talk, to set the terms of his demoted and shameful status in the family estate. But the father needed for the son to listen, to learn about a new reality of love and forgiveness that the son had not been prepared to experience. When the son quit talking and began to listen to his father, this new reality came into being for him.

Sometimes when we pray, we talk too much. I wonder if God ever tires of hearing us tell him how things in the world need to get fixed. When I pray the Lord’s prayer—a prayer we repeat every week and perhaps every day—I am often amazed at its brevity and the implicit assumption that God is capable of taking care of things. It is also a prayer that is short enough to provide to us the time to be quiet and listen. In the listening, we might just hear God speak of things that will surprise us.

The lost son had been living in a self-created reality. He trashed his life, reframed his identity, and then laid it before his father as the only possible way forward. The father blessed the son by cutting off his speech and drawing him into the reality of love. Once the son’s talking ceased and the listening began, blessing became apparent.

Many of us have laid out to God the terms of our self-created realities. Maybe we can’t get past our regrets and failures, so we let God know that we’re happy to accept second-class status in his family. But God is very likely to cut us off in mid-sentence when we tell him those kinds of things. It would be a good thing to stop talking about our terms and let God disassemble our assumptions. Once we close our mouths and open our ears, God’s surprises become possible for us.

That’s cause for celebration.

– Mike McNichols