Lent Blog | Kelly Hansen

I decided that I couldn’t put it off another day.  The weeds in my flowerbed were now spreading into the yard!  I’d already missed some of the better days for working in the yard but now the decision was made, it was time to set the body in motion to do the hard work of digging in the soil.  A few weeks before I had bought new gloves thinking at the back of my mind that I might do some work but really hoping that someone else would come along first.  My grandson, Levi, had come over to mow the lawn and wanting to keep him inspired made me up my game and go out to be industrious. 
As I bent over to begin this tedious exercise of clearing out what looked like a sea of wavy green with prickly towers popping up here and there, the air, heavy with drops of moisture, began to seep into my soul.  Here was the garden of my heart where so much had been planted but desperately called out for attention, preparation, tilling in order to be ready for the new planting, the new song, the new growth!  Here was a picture of Lent.

From the very beginning, before Ash Wednesday, the Spirit had been quickening my heart, showing me at different times just how wicked this heart truly is.  It is so easy to gloss over and ignore with learned platitudes how to accept and excuse my sinful condition.  But praise be to God, our good, good Father, He sends his precious Spirit to weed, to pull out, to turn over, to expose and to prepare me for a new season, some new plant ideas! 

As my back began to ache and my knees were telling me of their distress the song started coming…I will feast at the table of the Lord, I will feast at the table of the Lord, I won’t hunger any more…at his table!  The rhythm in this song kept me going, feasting on the wondrous love of Christ, his death, once for all, securing my hope of becoming fully human, the beautiful creation that God had desired for his own.  His resurrection, the guarantee that his death was effectual!  Oh to see Jesus, my heart cried, and to be changed moment by moment, day by day, year by year into a reflection of his love and beauty!

Lent comes but once a year in the church calendar as a reminder of what we must continually be doing, keeping our hearts clear, turned over, ready for his coming!  Come Holy Spirit and be my gardener!

Lent Blog | Steven Hansen

“It’s Hard For a Rich Man to Enter God’s Kingdom”

For me, the season of Lent is an extremely difficult time of the year, yet one I’m grateful for on many levels. The Church in her wisdom has recognized our tendency towards self-blindness and has offered us not just a moment of self- reflection, but a season. Real self-examination inevitably reveals just how idolatrous we truly are.

When I look at the whole of my sin and I examine my divided heart and how it yearns for life's pleasures often times more than for God’s glory, I feel ashamed to call myself a Christian. To bare that mark that so many of God's faithful have borne even unto death and to know that my faith is thin and weak by comparison is a dreadfully depressing thought. Most of the year I think of myself as doing pretty good. I obey God’s laws, at least the big ones. After eleven years in ministry one might even be tempted to think I’d have a pretty good handle on this walk by faith stuff. The truth is a bitter pill. A good self-test for me has been to imagine myself giving up some of my freedoms for Christ. If I’m honest, I squirm at the thought.

 I’ve lived most of my life in relative peace and prosperity. I’ve not known the kind of persecution of the generations of Christians who have gone before me.I read about the epic tales of the Martyrs and their unwavering faith under unimaginable circumstances from the comfort of my plush leather chair. The pain of that kind of testing is as far from me as the furthest galaxies in space. Often times I’ll thank God for all the many blessings he’s given my family and I. We are rich in blessings. We have endured such little hardship and been the recipients of such lavish wealth and still my heart whispers  “more”. I think King David was on to something when he petitions God in Psalm 26 to put him to the test. David writes, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;” Could it be that David knew something about the value of God’s right judgments, even being so bold as to ask for them. I’m also reminded of Jesus in Mathew’s gospel when he says to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you that it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Mathew 19:23-24.
I am a rich man. If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a rich man. To walk with Jesus is to take up your cross and that just doesn’t seem very pleasant. This lent, as we examine ourselves and God who is faithful brings us out of our spiritual blindness, may we endeavor to live as becomes a true follower of Christ. We have a hope in Jesus Christ and I'm comforted to know that He knows my frame and that my salvation doesn’t rest on my ability to live up, but on Christ’s. It may be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, but thanks to Jesus it’s not impossible. 

Steven Hansen

Lent Blog | Pastor Jeremy DeBord

Some things just don’t make much sense. Water doesn’t become wine, bread and fish do not suddenly multiply, the lame do not jump up and walk. And most certainly, dead people stay dead, especially those who experience the horrific death of crucifixion!
And yet, where Jesus is involved, all kinds of things that don’t make much sense...happen.
In those earliest years of the Jesus Movement, his followers didn’t wear crosses around their necks or hang them in the homes in which they worshipped. They had other symbols, certainly, but not crosses. Crucifixion was not a historical curiosity, but a still- present reality, and an agonizing and shameful one at that. To be cruci ed was to be executed as a common criminal. Worse, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, cursed was one who hung on a tree, on the wood of a cross.

So to speak of “Christ crucified” didn’t make sense to many. It was a stumbling block, something foolish or offensive. But Paul said otherwise. Yes, Jesus could have avoided the cross, found some other way around it. But instead he faced the worst the world could throw at him, and then broke through death itself, and leave an empty cross behind as witness to his astonishing victory.
Some things don’t make much sense. The cross is one of them. But it stands now and forever as our rallying cry that God—not injustice, not suffering, not even death—has the final, victorious word.

Lent Blog | Guest

At City Church we are always striving to stand with the best of Christian Tradition. Today we wanted to share a blog written by a Greek Orthodox priest as he discusses how he goes about planning for Lent.

First is the whole reality of Lent as such. I think it is very important to approach Lent not as some period of "religious intensity" as opposed to some other period that is not so "religious." In a real sense, the whole Christian life at all times is naturally "Lenten" because the whole Christian life is a preparation for death, resurrection, and judgment. In a way, all Christians are monks and pilgrims. Lent only serves to focus and intensify this basic element of Christian life. I think that if we really experience Lent in all its beauty and power, its spirit always remains with us - even sitting on a beach during a July vacation! This is one goal our family strives for and what we try to cultivate in our children.

Another goal concerning Lent is to teach it, not so much as a "religious" exercise, but as being a time in which we are given the opportunity to concentrate on what is really real and what is really human. "Orthodoxy," I once heard a speaker say, "is not a 'religion' but the Truth." And I think the same idea is true with Lent: Lent is a time to concentrate on life, on being human. Thus my struggle - with myself and my children - is to keep Lent from degenerating into something silly and petty - such as simply giving up candy or movies. The struggle is to cultivate and understand the revelation that there is something deeply wrong and sad about human life; that there is evil in the world and that this evil, subtle as it is, often enters into our hearts and minds; that we sin and are disobedient to God, and really lack the emptiness of self and humility before God that is the very foundation of Christian life. To love God, just to learn to love Him and understand and rejoice in His Word; to stand before Him with humility - like the Publican in the Temple; to be tenderhearted and sensitive toward others and their sufferings; to understand that life is meaningless without Christ: this I think is part of the essence of Lent and what I strive to instill in my children.

Together with this, Lent is a perfect time to impress on children a certain critical attitude toward life and cultural values. The whole spirit of Lent is opposed to the steady diet of hedonism, sexual ambiguity and self-love that is continuously dished out to us via TV, the schools, and so on. Lent is the opportune time to teach children to think for themselves and to understand that - all claims and promises to the contrary - unhappiness, disillusion, and sadness are inherent in a "fallen" state and nothing is going to solve that except Christ and the resurrection. My chief responsibility with my children is to cultivate in them a discriminating attitude about what they hear so that they will be able to discern - for themselves - what is good, and what is evil, and desire to be good, of here is true fulfillment and true freedom.

Matushka Nadia Koblosh

Lent Blog | Pastor Jeremy DeBord

Lent, like a majority of the Christian life, takes place in the context of community. While we as individuals might be fasting in order to focus on Jesus; its always beneficial to add some intentional time with those around you. Today I wanted to share the Lent daily reading plan from the Jesus Story Book Bible. This Bible is not just for kids, (although its definitely geared towards them) many of my seminary professors would start our classes with a reading and reflection from this book.  My hope is that no matter who you are, you will spend time reading it with those around you. 


Lent Blog | Rev. Jack Carter

I have always loved the “road trip”. Our family trips, my memories of them, bring to me great joy. Not that all things on every trip were always pleasant. A few times we experienced sickness along the way, and those times were difficult indeed. Nevertheless, my overriding memory remains very positive.

Every time we left from home, we knew where we were going; we always had destination in mind. I view the season of Lent as a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter. Easter presupposes Lent. We need Lent to begin to appreciate Easter. In order to taste the newness of Life, even Resurrection Life, we need a journey, a pilgrimage. And so, as we begin it, as we make those first steps of a Lenten journey, let us keep our eyes on the destination. It is the joy of Easter. Lent has been described as the time of “bright sadness”, and so it is. The road may seem long, but along the way a strong and certain light shines on the horizon. Our Lord lives!

From the Celtic Collect comes this prayer “Grant, we beseech thee, loving Father, that we who are disciplined by the Lenten fast, may find our worldly desires weakened, and our desire for Christ more fervent.”

Pastor Carter