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Near the Cross: Prayer and Gratitude

Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 4:10-23.

Spiritual Discipline ~ Celebration

Discipline Scripture ~ Matthew 28:1-10.

During the Season of Lent, Christians through the ages ‘try on’ different spiritual disciplines as a way to lean into their life of faith in a new, deeper, or fresh way. Each week during Lent, I will offer a reflection – including thoughts by the renowned Richard Foster – on a different spiritual discipline as modeled for us by Jesus.

The life of Jesus is bookended with joy. He was born under the chorus of joyful glad tidings of the angel chorus. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15 that he has said these things – taught these things – ministered these things – so that they – that our! – joy would be complete because Jesus’ joy was and is in us! Through Jesus and only Jesus is good news brought to the poor. Through Jesus and only Jesus are captives released. Through Jesus and only Jesus do the blind recover their sight. Through Jesus and only Jesus do the oppressed go free. Through Jesus and only Jesus do we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:18-19). And friends, we declare it with joy!

Foster believes “Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong. Scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. We cannot continue long in anything without it.”* The source of joy is obedience – and specifically – obedience to Christ. The invitation and challenge all Christ followers have is for obedience to Christ to work itself into every part of our lives; “when the power that is in Jesus reaches into our work and play and redeems them, there will be joy where once there was mourning. To overlook this is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation.”**

John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Message translation of this verse tells us that the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. Jesus is at our block parties and cul de sac pick-up basketball games. Jesus is with us when we miss the red light because someone else – or because we! – were not paying attention. Jesus is with us when we feel stubborn and stingy. Jesus is with us when we wonder if any one sees us…if any one cares. Jesus is with us – to heal, to make new, to gift and give joy – abundant and everlasting.

Foster says the truest heart of the discipline of Celebration is holding and being held by the Doxology as our life song – to praise God from whom all blessings flow – and in the moments where the blessings seem absent or stripped away – moments of suffering and hardship and injustice and grief and loss – let us look up in faith. Sorrow may last for the night – and those tears are so bitter – but trust, my friends, that joy comes in the morning.

Jesus is coming – on the third morning – the first day.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise God all creatures here belong

Praise God above ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.***

For further reading, see Celebration of Discipline pages 190-201.

*Celebration of Discipline 191.

**Celebration of Discipline 193.

***“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” The United Methodist Hymnal 95.

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