Lenten Devotional – WEEK THREE of LENT

Beatitude texts for this week: Matthew 5:6-7

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Sun, Mar 7: BLESSED

If you’re a fan of the poet John O’Donohue, you may have learned the Gaelic word beannacht as another word for blessing.

This week the blessing is given to those who hunger and thirst, and then again to those who are merciful. Again, this overturns ancient expectations that blessings were primarily available to people who were especially upstanding or powerful. These Beatitudes are offered, by Christ, for those who hold the least social standing in the community, and yet who embody the compassion that Christ strives to offer all of humanity.

Ironically, the conditions that cause people to be categorized as hungry and thirsty — especially for righteousness  — or to be considered merciful, may not be ones that are desirable. We do not aspire to know bodily or spiritual hunger. We want to be the ones with the power to feed and help others, as opposed to receiving such gifts. Yet in Christ’s eyes, all people hold value, including the most unexpected among us. When we are placed in that upside-down position of needing mercy from another, or of receiving nourishment from another, we gain a new point of view about what it means to belong to each other, and to Godself. — Rev Gail

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. — Camille Pissarro

Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. — Charles Dickens

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. — Robert Brault

Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather. Alexandre Dumas

Challenge or Question: Identify a blessing within your life. One aspect of your life for which you are grateful. Give thanks for it. Say a prayer, write it in a journal, or light a candle to acknowledge this blessing.

Lenten Devotional – Sat, Mar 6: EARTH

As heirs of earth, we are called to a sustainable view of our role. God has given the home of humanity into the keeping of those who are humble and nonviolent, yet those who will stand for what matters to all of us.

Indeed, the fate of our human home, God’s creation, is at stake.

Martha Stortz writes that in the Beatitudes, Jesus envisions and offers a home for all people. One of the Biblical figures exemplifying meekness, according to most commentators, is Moses. He led his people out of slavery in Egypt toward the promised land. At the end of his life, he was shown the land where his people would find home and sanctuary. It took a lifetime to make that journey and he died without entering the promised land. Stortz says, “Jesus uttered this blessing with Moses in mind, restoring to him the land he never got to enter. In this blessing, Moses finally makes it to the promised land. Jesus gift to Moses is also ours. All we have to do is say yes.”

The meek seem to have a generational view of how to care for themselves, each other, and the earth. They (we) aren’t scrambling for immediate rewards and riches. They (we) are looking at the long-term impact and consequences of how humans interact and live together and care for the planet. — Rev Gail

… That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. — Carl Sagan

We are all passengers aboard one ship, the Earth, and we must not allow it to be wrecked. There will be no second Noah’s Ark. — Mikhail Gorbachev

Vine Deloria, Jr. spoke of the Seven Generations in very practical terms. In his cantankerous way, he would express extreme annoyance at the romanticism of the concept as it was popularly used. Because, as explained to him, the generations we are sworn to protect and revere are the seven we are most immediately connected to. Think about it for a moment. It is possible that many of us have known or will know our great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even if we aren’t fortunate enough to have been in the physical presence of those who came before us, we usually have stories, songs, and photos that have been shared so that we feel a connection. We also want to make sure our kids and grandkids are healthy, safe and aware of where they come from. So, counting our own generation—ourselves, siblings, and cousins—we are accountable to those seven generations. — David Wilkins

Challenge or Question: How do you care for the earth? What else, in this Lenten period, can you choose to do to tend our human home?

Lenten Devotional – Fri, Mar 5: INHERIT

Inheritance is another form of God’s welcome. It utters a proclamation of belonging. We are fully acknowledged. The blessing of this Beatitude becomes one of responsibility.

In essence, our attitude causes us to become stewards of God’s creation, which includes the planet and cosmos, and all the beings and ecosystems within it. We are given the earth

Isn’t it fascinating that gentleness and self-discipline — wherein we remain humble and kind, even when we respond to a cause that requires our participation, support, and nonviolent advocacy — becomes the way in which we are offered the wholeness of creation? John Stott writes about this startling over-turning of our expectations. He says, “One would think that the meek get nowhere because everybody ignores them or rides roughshod over them and tramples them underfoot. Isn’t it the tough, the overbearing who succeed in the struggle for existence? … but the condition on which we enter our spiritual inheritance in Christ is not might but meekness, for everything is ours if we are Christ’s.”

This echoes the idea that the ‘poor in spirit’ or the dispossessed are those who actually become the ones claimed by heaven. Eknath Easwaran wrote, “To live simply is to live gently, keeping in mind always the needs of the planet, other creatures, and the generations to come. In doing this we lose nothing, because the interests of the whole naturally include our own. . . . In claiming nothing for [ourselves, we] have everything, for everything is [ours] to enjoy as part of the whole.” Although the term ‘meek’ sounds, to our modern ears, as if this group of people are powerless and disenfranchised, they are actually those who have experienced a deep sense of accountability and connection.  

The meek also seem to have a generational view of how to care for themselves, each other, and the earth. They aren’t scrambling for immediate rewards and riches. They are looking at the longterm impact and consequences of how humans interact and live together and care for the planet. —  Rev Gail

We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own. — Henry Moses Cass 

[In] Jesus’ day … Nobody possessed land except by violence, by oppression, by holding onto it and making all the peasants pay a portion of their harvest. Jesus is turning that around and saying no, it’s you little ones who are finally going to possess the land. I can hear implicit critique in his voice, but also hope. — Richard Rohr

I have also seen children successfully surmounting the effects of an evil inheritance. That is due to purity being an inherent attribute of the soul. — Mahatma Gandhi

We are all gifted. That is our inheritance. — Ethel Waters

Say not you know another entirely till you have divided an inheritance with him. — Johann Kaspar Lavater

Challenge or Question: For what do you feel responsible here on earth? Beyond yourself and family, what tugs at your heart and mind? How does being concerned for, and feeling responsible over, part of the earth then give you a sense of belonging?

Lenten Devotional – Thurs, Mar 4: MEEK

Meek: does this sound like a blessed condition? Matthew’s author used the Greek word praus. It might convey, as Brian Stoffregen writes, the “positive sense of ‘humble’ or ‘gentle’” or it might carry a more negative connotation such “‘humiliated’ … ‘walked on’ … ‘doormats’ … ‘powerless.’” In Hebrew scriptures, these people would be called anawim. The scholar Powell writes that the meek are the “ones who have not been given their share of the earth. They have been denied access to the world’s resources and have not had opportunity to enjoy the creation that God intended for all people.”

In this understanding, the meek include those who, without choice, are dispossessed and disenfranchised. They lack representation and authority. They are unable to hold onto land, resources or struggle to gain access to channels of influence and power.

Additionally, Martha Stortz writes that ‘Biblical meekness is tempered strength, power deliberately held in check.’ According to John Stott, ‘the Greek adjective translated “meek,” means “gentle,” “humble,” “considerate,” “courteous,” and therefore exercising the self-control without which these qualities would be impossible.’

In other words, the meek are people who are gentle and kind, and also exercise self-discipline about when and how they respond to unjust situations. They’re capable of righteous anger, but they restrain themselves unless the issue demands advocacy to be rectified or addressed.

According to some commentators, the meek, as defined by Biblical context, opt for strategies of nonviolence. Examples of such people include Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If we point to communities that adopt such practices, we might consider the Amish communities for their principles of nonviolence. They may be meek, and yet they are also strong and resilient.

Whether dispossessed or deliberately soft-spoken and courteous, do we often notice or listen to such folks? Christ’s Beatitude is pointing us toward this part of the population and reminding us that these are neighbors with insights to offer and gifts to share. By offering a blessing, Christ confirms their place within the community.

Do you identify as humble or meek? In what way? — Gail

You are meek
A trait few seek
Mistaking it for weak
Lidia Longorio

He never complained. He seemed to have no instinct for the making much of oneself that complaining requires. Wendell Berry

Men sometimes speak as if humility and meekness would rob us of what is noble and bold and manlike. O that all would believe that this is the nobility of the kingdom of heaven, that this is the royal spirit that the King of heaven displayed, that this is Godlike, to humble oneself, to become the servant of all! Andrew Murray

The least known among the virtues and also the most misunderstood is the virtue of humility. Yet, it is the very groundwork of Christianity. Humility is a grace of the soul that cannot be expressed in words and is only known by experience. It is an unspeakable treasure of God, and only can be called the gift of God. “Learn,” He said, not from angels, not from men, not from books; but learn from My presence, light, and action within you, “that I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls”. ― William Bernard Ullathorne

One of the best exercises in meekness we can perform is when the subject Is in ourselves. We must not fret over our own imperfections. Although reason requires that we must be displeased and sorry whenever we commit a fault we must refrain from bitter, gloomy, spiteful, and emotional displeasure. Many people are greatly at fault in this way. When overcome by anger they become angry at being angry, disturbed at being disturbed and vexed at being vexed. By such means they keep their hearts drenched and steeped in passion. Francis de Sale

Challenge or Question: Have you ever used a nonviolent response to an unjust situation? Was your response to a personal situation or a societal one? What strategy did you use? How did it work? What other strategies might you try?

Lenten Devotional – Wed, Mar 3: COMFORT

God promises comfort for those who are heartbroken. The simplest understanding of consolation is that people will regain the capacity to experience healing and joy. Interpreters also assert that comfort will come within the anticipation of being forgiven and restored to a more healthy and whole self, and reconciled to Godself.  

Sometimes our comfort comes in a spiritual form. We regain a sense of being connected to something larger than ourselves. Perhaps we even experience a reassuring presence, or know a wave of calm and peace, though not always. Yet as humans, we eventually heal.

As mentioned in prior reflections, this Beatitude doesn’t promise miracles that will address people’s suffering directly, at least in ways that will remove the causes and circumstances. Yet it suggests that mourning and grief have a place in the human experience, alongside joy and delight. People heal by becoming fully being present to and experiencing their feelings and thoughts. As humans, we learn and cope best by embracing the breadth of our emotions.

God remains faithfully present to God’s people, and continually offers the resources to become active partners in restoring and renewing the world that humans have also hurt. As St Teresa of Avila so eloquently reminds us, we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world now. Comfort will come, often, by the ways we are present to each other. We share our spiritual and emotional journeys and find strength and peace along the way. Just as we are designed for joy, we are also created to grow from the difficult experiences of sorrow, fear, and anger. As the Psalms say, we may weep in the night, but joy will come in the morning. — Rev Gail

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always. — Hippocrates

I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap. — Ani DiFranco

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christ has no body now but yours … Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. —
St Teresa of Avila

Challenge or Question: Could you take a moment to simply acknowledge what you need? What hurts in your life or needs mending?  Then perhaps you can say, what would give you comfort? What would give you comfort? Can you do something for yourself or someone else to ease some pain, loneliness or sorrow today? A call, walk, or visit? A note or cup of coffee?

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