Lent Reflection: A place for you

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Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am, there you may be also.
-John 14

What would you say? Honestly- what would you say to your closest friends the very night you would be betrayed, denied, and forsaken by all of them? What would you say on your very last night here on earth? I don’t know about you – but when we understand the context of when Jesus said these words from John 14, it is amazing to hear his perspective. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’, came from a man who later that evening would be grieved unto death in the Garden of Gethsemane. How troubled was his heart? In the moment of when we would want Jesus to be afraid and confide in his friends, (which most of us would want to do), he begins to talk about preparing a place for them. Jesus is almost calm about the upcoming crucifixion.

But I do not believe that His calm has anything to do with his psychological or emotional state. I believe that this was a time when Jesus knew He was fulfilling His purpose. In as much as He tried to explain it to the disciples throughout His ministry, Jesus took one more opportunity to explain to them about who He is, what he came to do, and what he is going to do. He revealed his purpose to them. Later in John’s account, he shows us how Jesus even prayed for the disciples and us too! It’s true. Jesus prayed for you and me when he prayed for the ones who would believe because of the witness of the disciples. That is you and me. John’s Gospel takes 5 out of 21 chapters to detail Jesus’ last words to his disciples. It must be important. If you had just one last statement to make, what would you say?

Michael Smith is a camp alum who has worked on staff and served on the board at camp. He is the pastor of Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Erma. Image credit: Kristin Nelson, via CreationSwap

Lent Reflection: The Gift of Forgiveness

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If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven- if there was anything to forgive- I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
-2 Corinthians 2:10-11

As a Pastor, working in the church is difficult and sometimes ugly (can I get an Amen?). As church leaders, we get to experience some ugly situations that come about because of our brokenness and sin. While we like to think we have it all together in the church (with our plastic smiles as we shake hands before worship), I realize that each of our communities is a potential powder keg ready to explode if our brokenness goes unchecked. It is the same outside of the walls of the church where our relationships at home, at work, and in our schools feel the effect of sin everyday.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians, is writing to the church at Corinth who has had to use church discipline on an individual(s). We’re not told what they did or why they did it. But what is clear is that person(s) has repented of whatever it is that caused grief within the community. Paul encourages the church to forgive and comfort those who repent- and to reaffirm their love for him (v.8). As the church forgives, Paul as their spiritual father, also forgives and extends the repentant grace and mercy.

Forgiveness is a choice that each of us has the ability to make when someone wrongs us. There are instances where we are able to forgive quickly, wanting to mend relationships that are meaningful to us. There are other times when a person hurts us so badly, that it is only by the grace of God that we are able to forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful tool that we possess as Christians. It is not a weak “It’s cool, everything is ok.” Forgiveness calls us, and the wrongdoer, to name the sin/wrong done to us. It acknowledges that a relationship has been broken, that someone has been hurt, and that repentance is required. Forgiveness also gives us the opportunity to extend mercy and grace to someone who may not believe they worthy of it. The truth is, none of us are worthy of grace and mercy- but through Jesus.

This week is Holy Week- as we journey from the cheers of Palm Sunday, to the Cross of Good Friday, and finish with the celebration of Resurrection. Many of our churches will remember Jesus’ last night with his disciples tonight. I’m always struck by the grace and mercy that Jesus extends Judas in John 13. In John’s account he tells us that Jesus was aware of what Judas had done and still washed his feet. In Mark’s account of the last supper with his disciples, it is Judas who sits next to Jesus in the place of honor. Mercy and grace to the very person who was in process of betraying Jesus.

As we draw closer to the cross, where Jesus was broken and poured out for us- God’s love, mercy, and grace for us- sinners; who do we need to forgive? Who do we need to ask forgiveness of? Let us not give Satan a foothold because of our anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness- instead let us use the gift of forgiveness as a vehicle to reveal the love, grace, and mercy that God has for us and for the world. Amen.

Steve LaMotte (@steve_lamotte) is Pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Dover, Delaware. He has been a speaker, teacher, worship leader, and dean at Delanco Camp. For Lent, he has chosen to abstain from watching The Bachelor and The Jersey Shore. Image credit: Matt Gruber, via CreationSwap.

Lent Reflection: Getting Through the Bones

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I love bedtime! Watching my boys splash around in the tub, dressing them in clean, PJs while inhaling the sweet smell of clean hair (which doesn’t happen to often with two little boys!), reading story books and a Bible story, then tucking them into comfy sheets and favorite blankies, and settling down for prayers…The process just makes my heart swell, so thankful that I have the opportunity to be a mom to these two little miracles that are my sons.

One night last year, after finishing our bedtime routine, my then four-year-old, Jesse, and I were talking about Jesus. We talked about how Jesus was God’s son, how He loved and healed people, and how he died on the cross and for all of the wrong things every person would ever do, and rose from the dead so that someday, if we ask Jesus into our hearts, we could live with Him in Heaven. Jesse sat quietly for a moment, then, prodding his chest, stated, “I tried to ask Jesus into my heart, but he can’t get through the bones.”

Do you ever feel like that? Even as a Christian, I feel like Jesus has a hard time getting through to my heart sometimes. I want Jesus to get to those soft, squishy parts that hurt or need healing, or to burrow into the core of what’s really important, and unfold His perfect plan. But, more often than I care to admit it, my plans, weakness, worries, and downright stubbornness get in the way.

Since God has been whispering His desire for me to open my heart more to Him, it does not surprise me then that today’s reading included Psalm 6. Verses 1-3 read, “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?”

I pray in this Lenten season, that God will do a restorative work on your heart, too! Even in the midst of being busy, and whatever obstacles we may try to construct, that you would allow Jesus to get through your bones, into the heart of what He desires for and from you.

Amy (Giberson) Plew has been involved with Delanco Camp as a scamper, camper, counselor, worship leader, and dean of women. She currently lives in Bluffton, S.C., with her husband Jared and sons Jesse (5) and Micah (1). Image credit: via Wikimedia