Lenten Series…February 21, 2021 to April 4, 2021 (Rev. Shalini Sankarlal)
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In Lent, we’re reminded that, again and again, suffering and brokenness find us. We doubt again, we lament again, we mess up again. Again and again, the story of Jesus on the cross repeats—every time lives are taken unjustly, every time the powerful choose corruption and violence, every time individuals forget how to love. With exacerbation we exclaim, “Again?! How long, O God?” And yet, in the midst of the motion blur chaos of our lives, God offers a sacred refrain: “I choose you, I love you, I will lead you to repair.” Again and again, God breaks the cycle and offers us a new way forward.
This theme provides a clear invitation in a time when much is unclear. Even if worshiping apart, we come to God again and again with our prayers, our dreams, our hopes, and our doubts. Even if from a distance, we will continue to be community to one another—especially when it’s hard—by choosing each other over and over again. We will continue to love God with the same persistence
God chooses and claims us. Our sub-theme, A Lenten Refrain, speaks to the ways God can make music of our lives. “Refrain” also reminds us that Lent is a season of abstaining from certain or harmful practices in order to take on new rhythms and habits.
In this season, we need rituals—both old and new—to remember and be transformed. Embodied practice builds muscle memory. Repetition helps retrain our neural pathways. We need the 46 days of Lent because this season shapes us into more faithful disciples. Join us this Lent as again and again, we bring all of who we are to God and trust that God will meet us, time and again, along the way.
Our theme and sub-themes are inspired by the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B), with particular emphasis on the following texts each week.
Ash Wednesday, February 17th, 2021
Matthew 6:1-16, 16-21 | Isaiah 58:1-12
As Lent begins, we’re invited in—to community, to this season, to our own spiritual journey, to true transformation. We’re on this journey together, but we’re invited to turn inward. Therefore, spiritual practices are not for show. Matthew 6 and Isaiah 58 remind us that performative acts (of piety and justice) are not the way.
February 21st, 2021
Again & Again, God Meets Us
Mark 1:9-15 | Genesis 9:8-17
God meets Jesus at the water before he is tempted in the wilderness—this is important. First and foremost, God claims us. God meets us in the liminal space, at the water’s edge, at the threshold of something new, and names us Beloved. God’s covenant with all of creation reminds us that God meets us where we are—in the midst of our reluctance, doubt, eagerness, or weariness—and proclaims we are good.
February 28th, 2021
Again & Again, We Are Called To Listen
Mark 8:31-9:8¹ | Psalm 22:23-31
Like the disciples, we are often stuck in the pattern of messing up over and over again. We cling to power, we climb the ladder, we memorialize Christ’s teachings rather than embodying them. However, we can’t be trapped by shame, guilt, ignorance, or inaction. Humility is required for transformation.
Again and again, we are called to listen—to God and to others.
March 7th, 2021
Again & Again, We Are Shown The Way
John 2:13-22 | 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
According to John, Jesus begins his ministry by showing more than telling. In the temple, Jesus disrupts and overturns the systems of corruption and profiteering taking place, but ultimately points us to the promise of restoration. Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) that God’s wisdom is more expansive than we can imagine. We are shown the way, even if God’s “way” feels foolish, counter-cultural, disruptive, or uncomfortable.
March 14th, 2021
Again & Again, God Loves First
John 3:14-21 | Ephesians 2:1-10
After inviting Nicodemus to be born anew, Jesus tells him in John 3 that God so loved the world that God sent his son to restore it. Therefore, when we read John 3:16, we remember that Jesus is speaking in metaphor and poetry. Ultimately, love is where God begins and ends. This love, like grace, is a gift we do nothing to deserve. Again and again, love is our refrain. Before we act, think, or believe, can love be first for us too?
March 21st, 2021
Again & Again, We Are Reformed
John 12:20-33 | Jeremiah 31:31-34
We desire for God to write on our hearts so that God’s law can re-shape and re-form us from the inside out. Reformation is a journey of letting the old fall away for something new to emerge, of returning to God’s words over and over, of being drawn into the heart of God. This is the process of justification and sanctification; transformation must be internal and communal.
March 28th, 2021
Again & Again, We Draw on Courage
On Palm Sunday, we remember that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was not a risk free, palm party. It was a protest parade—a protest against those in power, a parade to prepare the way for a different kind of king. And this was all happening with plots to kill Lazarus (and Jesus) building in the background. We’re reminded that the crowds were brave to show up that day, and that Jesus drew on courage to face his journey to the cross. The root of courage is cour, meaning “heart.” Courage is deep within us; we often find it when we most need it, when everything else has been stripped away.
Maundy Thursday – April 1st, 2021
Again & Again, We Are Held Together
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Footwashing is a practice of radical vulnerability, of being seen and known. Jesus loved the disciples “to the end.” In this act, we remember that God holds all of our pain, vulnerability, doubts, and sufferings. As we venture toward the cross, we can lean into God’s everlasting arms, knowing we are held.
Good Friday – April 2nd, 2021
Again & Again, We Find Ourselves Here
Again and again, we find ourselves at the foot of the cross, at the pit of despair, in the face of death, in the grip of state-sanctioned violence. “Here” is an emotional place. “Here” is grief. “Here” is the reality of sin and brokenness. On Good Friday, we are called to sit in the silence of death, knowing that God is here.
2 The RCL only includes v.12-16 of John 12. However, we’ve expanded the reading to provide more context and narrative cohesion to bridge the gap between palms and passion. It’s important to note that we are going backward in the narrative from the 5th Sunday’s reading of John.
Easter Sunday – April 4th, 2021
Again & Again, The Sun Rises
According to Mark, on the first day of the week, the women rise with the sun and buy spices to anoint Jesus’ body. They are shocked to find the tomb empty, and leave in fear and terror. Mark’s resurrection story is less triumphant than the other Gospel testimonies (as scholars believe the remainder of Mark’s gospel was a later addition). In Mark’s version, we are reminded that Easter comes to us, again and again, even if we don’t know what to make of God’s resurrection ways. Again and again, the sun rises.
And some days, that is enough.