Lenten
GesTures
An ecumenical exploration of Lent through sound, movement, prayer, and visual meditation.

Presented by the Presbytery of San Fernando and Dea Studios.
DS Editorial Vol. 1
DEa jenkins
Editor
Lenten Gestures is a project birthed from the creative minds of many artists, writers, and faith leaders. I am grateful for their contributions, and I hope you glean as much from their gifts as I have. Lenten Gestures is an ecumenical effort meant to demonstrate the creative potential of an extended community. This project is designed to offer readers/viewers/listeners an opportunity to experience Lent in a fresh way.

We will journey through Lent by exploring Matthew 25 for the entire season. Matthew 25 offers three takes on how we might prepare for a resurrected life through strategic planning, putting our loaned talents to work, and caring for the least. 

This project is part of a developing collaboration between the Presbytery of San Fernando and Dea Studios. We are excited to share with you in the weeks to come. Thank you for being part of this journey. 
CHAPTER
1
Matthew 25: 1-13
Preparing

February 17 | Ash Wednesday

Matthew 25: 1

Art: Megan Kenyon
Reflection: Dea Jenkins
1"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaidstook their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom."
There was a time when the thought of death would send my stomach into a tight ball of nerves, icy fear slithering its way up and down my spine. As a child I used to lay awake at night fearful of what would happen should I pass away. It was not so much the physical act of dying that scared me. Instead, I feared that in place of the glorious peace promised throughout scripture for all who enter the heavenly Kingdom of GOD post earthly intermission would be nothingness. I feared that my lifeforce would dwindle into a state of nonexistence. The threat of having no consciousness of my own state of being petrified me the most. Not only would I physically cease to be, but I would not even be aware that I had passed from life and into a void of nihility.

Precocious childhood thoughts aside, it is this reality of consciousness that I find most intriguing when reading Matthew 25. In this passage there seems to be a forceful push by way of the narrator, Jesus Himself, to awaken His captive audience to the need to be more fully conscious - that is, to be more fully aware and vigilant. If one is conscious of something, does not that consciousness denote a degree of responsibility? Jesus seems to believe so.

At the start of Matthew 25, the ten virgins are united in their sameness of cause and interest. This hub of consciousness leading them to all seek the same end does not presuppose that they are all wise enough to prepare for the journey ahead. Though they begin in the same place, what will be their story once the bridegroom arrives? In like manner, though we are all sharing this earthly real estate at the moment, what will be our story once Jesus returns? Do our lives heed the warnings to be more vigilant, wise, and prepared - that is, to fully live into the call of consciousness once we are born? Are we prepared enough to fully withstand the pitfalls of sleepwalking through life?
Practice: Scripture to Song

In Megan Kenyon’s piece “Listen and Lament,” the artist quotes Marvin Gaye’s song, “Inner City Blues”. In this practice, challenge yourself by writing a chorus or verse to Matthew 25.

1 | Write out or type Matthew 25. (Suggestion: start with just a section of Matthew 25, perhaps just using Matthew 25: 1-13 for this practice.)
2 | Highlight any words or phrases that stand out to you.
3 | Delete any words or phrases that aren’t highlighted.
4 | Take the remaining words/phrases and rearrange them into a poem.
5 | Create a melody for your poem.
6 | Repeat the process using other parts of Matthew 25 to create your song.

* You can also replace the parable of the ten virgins with your own story that embodies the themes of preparation and awareness.
Foreseeing

February 18

Matthew 25: 2

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Mike Harbert
2"Five of them were foolish, and five were wise."
One of the things I struggle with is practicing foresight when I believe certain things "must be done." Even when I’ve prayed about it, once I get MY sights on what appears to be the right thing, look out! Sadly the end often becomes more important than the means and true love goes out the window.

Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins speaks to this struggle: “Five of (ten virgins) were foolish and five were wise” (Matthew 25:2). Why were five foolish? They did something without practicing “foresight.” Why were five wise? They practiced “foresight.”

Foreseeing requires getting beyond our natural compulsions that often mislead us. Instead of simply taking action based upon what we believe is right in the moment, we must take steps to allow God to speak to us about what is truly right and best before taking action. For me this means slowing down, taking a deep breath and practicing these steps:

1) Honestly getting in touch with what I believe is right and needed in the moment
2) Sitting quietly, listening for God’s perspective about what is right and needed
3) Asking a trusted and godly friend their perspective about what is right and needed
4) Making sure what I believe is right and needed is in line with scripture
5) Honestly discerning if there is true peace in my soul before taking action.

If what I feel is right and “must be done” before I practice these five things, most likely what I believe is right and needed is not. Yet when I take these five steps before taking action, I avoid falling into compulsions that mislead me and hurt others.

This Lent, I encourage you to take time to prayerfully consider whether you need more of this kind of foresight in your life. What might this look like and what will this require? What simple, intentional and incremental adjustments are needed (each day) to allow this way of living to become more your actual reality?

Grace & Peace,
Mike Harbert
Learning

February 19

Matthew 25: 3

Photography: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Bobby Harrison
3"When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them [...]"
Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.

The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."

Practice: A Kinesthetic Journey Through the Psalms


1 | Find 3-5 psalms that you can pair with Matthew 25.
2 | View and practice "A Kinesthetic Journey Through the Psalms".  
Providing

February 20

Matthew 25: 4

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Judith Hirsch-Fikejs

Practice: Rule of Life


Download and use Practicing The Way's 'Rule of Life Workbook'.
4" [...] but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps."
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through,” so goes the old southern Gospel hymn. Human existence is often characterized as a journey, even in secular literature. Scripture refers to the Christian life as journeying toward God's heavenly kingdom. For now, we are mired in this temporal world, and as transient as our earthly sojourn may be, believers are called to live as God's Kingdom people now. The contrast between the Wise and Foolish maidens who go out to meet the Bridegroom is a case in point. In this single statement found in Matthew 25:4, we encounter individuals who know what is required of them. The Wise Maidens were prepared. They left nothing to chance. They not only filled their lamps with oil, but were prepared to buy more if necessary.  

Oil has long been seen as a metaphor for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are indeed marked with the sign of God's Spirit in Baptism. But what of daily living? Can we prepare, be ready, be looking ahead each day, allowing God's Spirit to awaken us, to be our inner power source?  The spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-examination, confession, and goal setting can be powerful aids. We can view each new day as another occasion of learning and serving, allowing God's Spirit to shine into our workplace, homes, schools, and among friends and family.

Perhaps each of us can spend time daily considering how we can be “filled with the Spirit,” as we honor our Lord, preparing to meet him as the Resurrected One.
Waiting

February 21

Matthew 25: 5

Art: Jess Velarde
Reflection: Rachel Coleman
5“As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.”
What does it mean to wait? What changes this act from simple passivity into an intentional activity? I wonder if it is not perhaps some future event one holds in one’s mind. All of the maidens wait for the bridegroom and their energy is focused on his arrival, though they know not exactly when that will be. And yet, all of the maidens recognize the bridegroom when he does finally arrive—even those who were unprepared.

It seems then that waiting and recognition are tied together somehow. In thinking of what is to come, what may look like a period of stillness is transformed into an act of moving toward something, if only interiorly, an activity that in fact involved our whole being. Perhaps, we may say it this way: waiting is the moment of recognition extended through time.

“*Behold* the bridegroom!” All of the maidens were waiting for him, all of the maidens recognized him upon his arrival. What then separates the foolish from the wise? Might we say that the difference lies in how completely the maidens let the act of recognition transform their period of seeming stillness, transform this interiority? The foolish know the bridegroom, but do not let this recognition affect their whole selves. The wise let it in- and transform all their other activities, so that their waiting truly becomes an act of their whole being. Their waiting becomes, ultimately, an offering.

Practice: Matsutani's "Stream"


Watch artist Takesada Matsutani's performance of "Stream". As you're watching journal using the following prompts:

1 | What is your impression of Matsutani's use of repetition?
2 | What do you make of the element of water used in the performance?
3 | Place yourself inside the performance. Where are you? What are you doing? What emotions are rising or falling for you as the performance unfolds? Do any of these thoughts and feelings coorelate to what you've read in Matthew 25 so far?

Watch artist Takesada Matsutani's performance of "Stream". As you're watching journal using the following prompts:What is your impression of Matsutani's use of repetition? What do you make of the element of water used in the performance? Place yourself inside the performance. Where are you? What are you doing? What emotions are rising or falling for you as the performance unfolds?
Beholding

February 22

Matthew 25: 6

Art: K. McFarland
Reflection: Dea Jenkins
6“But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”
Imust admit that I read verse six with a tinge of skepticism. After mulling through long stretches of waiting, it is easy to dismiss the strands of encouragement that periodically cross your path. Unfortunately, skepticism can easily cause one to miss the moment of actualization. If, after waiting for so long, the actualization does suddenly materialize, will you be caught off guard? Will you be ready to receive?

To behold is to take notice of, to witness, to suddenly fill your gaze on a fixated point of chosen clarity. Beholding goes one step further than simply “looking”. To behold is to take in and to wonder.

Hasn’t God filled your life with wonders worth beholding? Even when you’ve waited for the next to materialize, wasn’t there always something in the now that spoke to the glorious works of thoughtfulness, intentionality, and creativity on part of the Creator? Hasn’t each “now” set you up to finally and fully behold that which you craved for, prayed over, and thought long and hard about? I find in Matthew 25: 6 the reminder that God does indeed always deliver on what God has promised. There will always be a moment to behold when it comes to what God has spoken to be true.

I recently heard a pastor speak about how time is simply catching up to what God has already known and spoken to be true (Torré Roberts, pastor of The Potter’s House at OneLA). I find the permeability of God’s timespace fascinating - that we can move through time in what appears to be a linear unfolding, but in God’s actuality (the Truth of all that is actual), time unfolds over and over again upon itself, moving in circulatory patterns, criss-crossing across dimensions, unfolding at times in full view of what seems speculatory. In full reality, time is actually a mirage of what is to come, of what is left behind, and of what is now. And what is now if not both perpetual promise and opportunity for beholding?
Practice: MoMA's Artful Practices for Well-Being

Allow this exercise created by Lissa Mazzola to harness your ability to take in and behold. You can use these same techniques in multiple areas of life.
Anticipating

February 23

Matthew 25: 7

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Gretchen Saalbach


Practice:
Conversatio Meditation


Visit conversatio.org, and select one of their meditations.
7“Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps."
Matthew 25:7 gives us a picture of anticipation that’s linked with preparation – get ready because the bridegroom is coming! But there’s been a long delay until finally a voice cries out, “He’s coming!” and the bridesmaids get their lamps ready.

Anticipation can be fun and exciting, and we turn that excitement into action. We do what we can to prepare so that we’re ready when the moment we hope for finally arrives.

But if there’s a delay, a significant delay to the point that you’re not even sure that thing is going to happen, then that fun and excitement can become so many other things, like anger, disappointment, and apathy. We go back to life as usual and maybe wait for something to happen, but not with any sense of expectation that causes us to make room in our lives for that thing.  

Sometimes going back to life as normal is okay, because what we hoped for just won’t happen. But the danger is that’s not always the case. Sometimes we do have to continue to wait with a sense of preparation, that the hoped-for thing will happen, but we will miss it if we aren’t ready for it.

Making room for God in our lives is just like that. We can have great experiences with God when we first start walking with Him, but over time life normalizes and we no longer feel the need to be so into reading the bible or praying or other spiritual practices. The problem is, though, if we aren’t making space for God continuously, we will miss out altogether on the opportunity for Him to come again and do amazing things in us and through us.

While we don’t know when God will show up in our lives in a life-changing way, let’s choose to make space in our lives for Him to come whenever He chooses, and live in anticipation that He will come. The wait will be worth it.
Discerning

February 24

Matthew 25: 8

Music: Ivan Wong
Reflection: Al Han


Practice:
Google's Wassily Kandinsky


Explore Google’s Wassily Kandinsky experiment.

1 | How do the sounds and music deepen your understanding of Kandinsky’s painting?

2 | Does the exercise offer insight on the process of discernment for you?
8“The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’"
Ihad the honor of officiating a wedding of a young couple in my church plant recently. Due to Covid, the wedding was very intimate… less than 30 people in attendance. However, the bride and groom were able to have a full bridal party with four bridesmaids and four groomsmen. The couple informed me ahead of time that two of the bridesmaids would be performing a special song during the ceremony. I reached out to these two bridesmaids prior to the wedding asking them to practice before the dress rehearsal of the wedding, to which they strongly agreed.

On the day of the dress rehearsal, however, it was obvious to everyone that the two bridesmaids had not prepared or practiced whatsoever. As I was going through the Order of Ceremony with the engaged couple, the bridal party, and the family members involved, these two bridesmaids were off to the side of the altar playing the piano and singing the song as if it were their first time. They wasted everyone’s valuable time during the dress rehearsal. Sadly, the two bridesmaids’ lack of preparation was an unfortunate distraction and an unnecessary delay to the larger event that was happening, which was the wedding. 

The “virgins” in Matthew 25 are akin to the “bridesmaids” in today’s context. In a traditional first century Jewish wedding, it was customary for several close friends of the bride, typically ten virgins, to escort the groom to his newlywed bride after the wedding ceremony. Since ancient lamps required oil to stay lit, the extra supply of oil was a wise form of preparation.When  the five bridesmaids who ran out of oil asked the bridesmaids with extra oil to give them some, it would have actually been unwise to do so, as all of them ran the risk of running out of oil, leaving nobody to escort the bridegroom to his bride. 

So much of growing in faith is about preparation, being wise, and discerning.
reasoning

February 25

Matthew 25: 9

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Nick Warnes
9“But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’"
When going up Waterman Drive toward Lake Arrowhead on a snowy day, there is always a line that forms at the top of the mountain. The line is not due to the weather, but to police stopping cars to ensure they have chains on their tires. Many will wait for hours without chains to get through. When police identify that they don’t have the chains, drivers  are immediately sent back down the mountain to purchase chains in order to get through. A frustrating experience for all.

While many may be quick to experience empathy for both the drivers and the foolish bridesmaids in Matthew 25, this is not what Matthew 25 is about. Matthew 25 is about a reasoned preparation.

For the driver:Why did you not bring chains? Did you not watch the weather? For  the bridesmaids with the lamps: Why did you not bring oil for the lamp?

This text reminds readers to not only be prepared, but to be reasonable in your preparation. Of course drivers are going to need chains to get up the mountain! Of course the bridesmaids with the lamps are going to need oil! This is well within reason!

With all humility I approach this text with some questions and invite you to do the same. If Jesus were sitting next to me, what am I not prepared for in my faith that would be unreasonable? Am I prepared to love my enemy? Am I prepared to engage with my neighbors? Am I prepared to pursue justice? Am I prepared to live joyfully? Am I prepared to care for the widow, or those experiencing homelessness? Am I prepared to give away all that I have?

This is the challenge of this text. To read it through the lens of the foolish bridesmaids and not through the lens of the wise bridesmaids. Much reflection will be due if one does so, and I hope that you will engage in such a way this day..
Consummating

February 26

Matthew 25: 10

Art and Reflection: Dea Jenkins
10“And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut."

W
e’ve spent the past week thinking through the repercussions of time and the need to prepare for what will come. The latter presupposes that we hold the assumption that something will indeed occur at some point. In reading into the actions (or lack thereof) of the unwise bridesmaids, one wonders whether they failed to properly prepare out of neglect, simple foolishness, or even a lack of faith that the bridegroom would actually arrive. Perhaps they wondered whether they would be accepted once the bridegroom finally showed. In any case, their lack of preparation thwarted any attempt on their part to enter the longed for space of acceptance and security.

For many believers, the question of grace lingers in this passage. Why weren’t the unwise bridesmaids offered a chance at redemption? Doesn’t grace cover all folly? However, Matthew 25: 10 informs us of otherwise. The verse demonstrates the harsh reality that there will in fact come a time when the opportunity to connect with the bridegroom will pass.

When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also refer to the perfection or full completion of something. In exploring the metaphor of Matthew 25: 1-13, we recognize a call to  prepare to meet our bridegroom with a sense of urgency. In that meeting will come the fullness of our completion and the perfection of our being. Nevertheless, as the passage also indicates - access to this completion, to this consummation of loving and following Jesus, is not guaranteed.  

Where are we wise in our preparation? Where are we foolish? Should the bridegroom finally arrive, will He find us ready to step into His perfection?


Practice: Vision Board


Make your exploration of Matthew 25 practical and create a vision board based on what God is preparing you for. This activity will help you move from inner reflection and into developing a practical plan.

1| Spend time praying, asking God to show you 3-5 major goals for your life.
2| Find images that represent the fulfillment of these goals.
3| Create a vision board using these images. You can create a digital board using tools like Pinterest or a physical board.
4| Go one step further and lay out the steps you'll need to take to realize these goals. Recognize that you won't have all of the steps right away. If only one step comes to mind, that is enough for now.
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
PErsevering

February 27

Matthew 25: 11

Art and Reflection: Dea Jenkins
11“Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’
What do you do if your perseverance culminates in defeat? Is a failed ending of a longed for passion and longstanding pursuit truly the end of a matter? How do you move forward after failure?  

Though we are only in the second month of 2021, I feel as though several months have gone by. February has been a strange mix of loss and acceleration. The finitude of closure has become a familiar sensation during this time. While I grieve what (and certainly whom) has passed this month, I cannot deny that I recognize within transition the glimmerings of new possibilities. As the old fades out, the new slowly presents itself.  

Even as I contemplate this, I also wonder what life would be like if I were on the other side of the door of acceptance and entry. If I had missed certain moments of preparation like the unwise bridesmaids, what would be my next move? The Matthew 25 passage doesn’t leave us with much hope. Instead, it fills us with a sense of gravity about our responsibility towards preparation and alertness. We do not have the luxury of remaining in folly.  

It seems that 2020 reinvigorated the awareness that wisdom is of the utmost necessity during a time such as this. Yes, there will come a time when the pandemic will end and we will move forward in life. However, will that life be the culmination of foresight, prayer, and preparation, or of foolishness, insecurity, and fear? Are we taking the necessary steps today to ensure that we are free to move forward when opportunity finally presents itself?


Practice: Refining the Vision


1| Read through the entirety of Matthew 25.

2| After, assess whether the goals you included on your vision board yesterday measure up to the guidance offered in Matthew 25. If not, adjust your vision board. If yes, write out the steps needed to accomplish one goal on your board.

3| Plan to take that step this week.  
Denying

February 28

Matthew 25: 12

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Al Han


Practice: Setting Boundaries


Explore this guide for setting boundaries by Clusters of Inspiration.
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
12“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’
In high school, people would often confuse me for my little brother and vice versa. It’s an honest mistake because he and I were only one year apart in age, similar in size, and we even shared clothes sometimes. Usually if one of my brother’s friends would approach me and call me by his name, they’d realize almost immediately that they made a mixup, apologize, then move on.

However, on one occasion in high school, a girl in his grade ran up to me excitedly, grabbed my arm, and started rambling on about a mutual friend of hers and my little brother. She was talking so fast and so loud that I wasn’t even able to interrupt her to tell her I’m not my brother. After what felt like five straight minutes, I nearly yelled at her, “I don’t know you!” There was an awkward pause of the two of us looking into each others’ eyes. She became flushed with embarrassment, then replied, “Oh my God! I thought you were your brother! I’m so sorry!” She ran off sheepishly and I walked away slightly vexed.

It’s strange when someone you don’t know acts like they know you. As much as you want to be kind or welcoming, it doesn’t change the fact that no relationship exists. Even for me as a pastor, I want to be all things for all people; but this is impossible. Perhaps this is why God commands us to “love our neighbors,” rather than “love everyone,” because we are expected to simply love the people we know or those who are near. Practically speaking, if we are called to love everyone, we wouldn’t do a great job of it. By attempting to love everyone, we actually don’t love anyone well. Paradoxically, by denying love to some we are being more loving to our neighbors.
Learning

March 1

Matthew 25: 13

Art: Julia Hendrickson
Reflection: Gretchen Saalbach
13“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’
Ibroke my elbow at the end of April, 2020, and it’s been a long road of recovery involving two surgeries and a lot of physical therapy. I still can’t fully stretch out my arm, or rotate my forearm back and forth, so I’m doing a number of exercises designed to help me stretch and bend my arm, and work on strength and flexibility.

At first it was easy to see what improvements I had made. But I’m now at the point of recovery where any gains I make are hard to notice because they are small improvements rather than the bigger improvements that happened earlier in my recovery. I observe them through sudden shifts in what I can do,. I’m grateful to my therapists; because of their abilities, they can see what I can’t. They see what is going on with the structures and tissues of my arm and take me through activities that will help with scar tissue and stiffness. They ask me about pain levels and any changes I’ve seen, and work with me to make sure that the day of recovery will happen.

We’re told in this passage to keep watch because we don’t know when Jesus will return. Keeping watch means to observe what is happening, and to respond in a way that foreshadows the truth of God’s kingdom. We make room in our lives for God to speak to us and to empower us so that we can be His hands and feet. We do this with others – this is a multigenerational, multiethnic, multigendered work - because we each have limits on what any one of us can see and know, and we need everyone’s input and encouragement so that we can fully reflect the fullness of God and what He wants for us as humans. We celebrate together the ways God’s love and goodness breaks into our lives and the world around us.

Let’s ask God to help us be alert to where He’s at work, and partner with Him to see His kingdom come.
CHAPTER
2
Matthew 25: 14-30
Acquiring

March 2

Matthew 25: 14

Art and Reflection: Dea Jenkins
14"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;"
Imagine you are a slave working on a large property when suddenly your master calls to you. He has a reputation for being firm and thorough, and you know that townspeople think he is a great businessman. When you join him and two other slaves, the conversation is already underway. You listen intently to what your boss is explaining and you slowly realize what is being said.  

Your boss travels frequently, so it isn’t uncommon for him to leave detailed instructions on how to care for the property. However, this time something’s different. Your boss pulls out a bag and begins to distribute talents. You’re so caught off guard that you freeze for a moment.  

How would you react to this apparently sudden act of trust? Would you receive the talents with great care? With glee? Or, would you be filled with a sense of trepidation? Of disbelief? How do you care for another person’s property? How does that person’s trust in your abilities challenge how you view the property given? Are you even able to recognize the opportunity as one of trust?

Consumed with day to day realities, dreams and hopes for the future, familial ties and friendships, it is very easy for us to lose connection with any sort of macro vision of our time on earth. However, in those moments, when we are able to catch the drift of a larger vision, we may recall that we hold one of the highest positions possible - that of steward. What may be difficult to grasp is that our acquisition of earth’s gifts are inherited upon our entryway into this realm. If we are human, we are stewards.  

What will help us to remember this aspect of our identity? How will remembering enable us to view our position on earth? How will that enablement filter through our lives from the macro humanistic perspective and into our daily interactions with God, others, and mother nature herself?
Practice: Spiritual Gifts

Find a spiritual gifts assessment and discover more about the gifts God has given you. You can search for your own, or try this test by Jeff Carver.

Practice: Spiritual Gifts Continued


Based on yesterday's spiritual gifts assessment, what were your top three gifts? Did the results surprise you? Did they offer confirmation for what God has already unfolded in your life?

Take the top three gifts and spend today praying over them, asking God to further reveal how the gifts are operating in your life. Also ask that God would deepen your understanding of the gifts and how they might be of service to others within your spheres of influence.

Tip: Have a journal on hand. When God responds to today's prayers, take note of what God is saying during this time. You may choose to return to these notes later as a way of documenting this part of your journey.
15"to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one,to each according to his ability"
St. Thomas Aquinas gives us this philosophical maxim: “the giver gives according to the mode of the receiver”. How interesting to reflect on this when we think of the structure and act of gift-giving: we often, I think, conceive of gift-giving as initiated and determined by the giver. If I am the giver, I decide what the gift to my intended recipient will be, as well as when and how I will give. All of the most important decisions, as it were, about the entire exchange seem to be on the side of the giver. But both this parable and its corresponding philosophical principle seem to challenge this conclusion: perhaps the giver does initiate the exchange, but it is the receiver who determines the structure of the act—indeed the gift itself, and therefore we might say that in a certain sense the receiver determines the act of giving, and therefore the giver himself.

What could this mean for our present Scriptural context? Do we dare say that we determine the Lord and his giving? I think that we can. The Lord is *the* Giver: he who determines and shapes what all other giving is. This means that all giving participates in his foundational generosity, a generosity which infinitely flows from him simply because that is his nature. But insofar as he created a receiver of his generosity, this means it is also in his nature to pay attention to and care for the receiver. And this attention, as the parable demonstrates, can be both wonder- and awe-ful. But let’s be clear: it is only so because of the power that has been given to us in the receiving: the power to determine the action of the giver (and therefore the giver himself), a power which of course he has also bestowed on us. The giver has allowed to determine him in our receiving, and we should approach such a task with fear and awe.

Investing

March 4

Matthew 25: 16

Art: Andrea Kraybill
Reflection: Michaela O'Donnell

Practice:
Identifying Spheres of Influence


Using the diagram, identify your spheres of influence. Who is impacted by your decisions directly, indirectly, and on a macro level? (The macro level may include your impact on the environment or large scale social issues.)

After identifying your spheres of influence, consider where you might invest time, energy, and resources. Spend time in prayer and consider who within your areas of influence might benefit from your gifts and resources in a capacity that extends beyond what you're currently offering.
16"The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents."
I'm from Nebraska where we are prone to figures of speech rooted in farm life. Not that I’ve ever lived on a farm myself, but rather when agriculture is a state’s largest industry, it shapes the imagination—and the language of its people. If you are about to take a giant risk, you might say it’s a bet the farm kind of risk. Or if you’re warning someone not to get ahead of themselves, you might say, don’t count your chickens before they hatch! Or, if you’re thinking about where to invest your money, you might consider the adage: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

It’s this last figure of speech that feels relevant to the Parable of the Talents. At this point in the story, we don’t yet know how each investment is going to pay off. We only know that the investor chooses to spread out his money. In other words, he’s not putting all his eggs in one basket.

It might feel straightforward to think about diversifying our financial investments. That part of how we build wealth is by taking prudent risks along the way. Some of those risks will pay off and others won't. You can never really  be sure.

But what about resources that can’t be counted in dollars and cents? What about our time? Our energy? Consider if you’re spending or investing these resources. When we spend, it’s transactional. There’s something specific we’re hoping to get in return. But when we invest, the hope is multiplication. Plus, the results of investment aren’t fixed or guaranteed. So, again, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. We don’t want to solely invest in one other person or our work or even one way of thinking.

But, on the flip side, we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin either. It’s why we must be mindful. So, consider how you’re currently investing your resources. Name what you’re hoping to see as a return. Make a plan for diversifying how you invest your money yes, but also your time and energy.
Multiplying

March 5

Matthew 25: 17

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Michaela O'Donnell

Practice: Sharing Gifts


Share your results from the spiritual gifts test with a small group of friends, colleagues, and/or advisors. Encourage them to take the test also. Invite them to share their results with you.

1 | What are the similarities between your results?
2 | If you are sharing within a community, note where there are differences. Discuss how God might be working within your community to provide a diverse range of gifts.
17"In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents."
Breadmaking became a whole thing during Covid. For a while, it felt like my Instagram feed was 80% pictures of sourdough bread. I must say people got pretty good at those lines on top of the bread. Why was sourdough in particular so popular? It’s likely because unlike many other types of bread, sourdough doesn’t require dry yeast. When people couldn’t find dry yeast in grocery stores, they turned to sourdough starter which could be made by combining flour and water.  

If you’re a bread novice like me, you might not know that a sourdough starter is intended to have quite the lifespan! If it’s regularly used and fed water and flour the starter can live for decades! Said another way, investing in the starter pays exponential dividends in the form of delicious bread, pancakes, waffles, pizza and more! Plus, once the sourdough starter is developed, a baker can fraction off parts of it and give the starter to other people for them to use as they like!

So, what does sourdough have to do with this parable? The multiplication that happens when a baker feeds the starter is an image that can enliven our imaginations about what exactly happens when we invest with hopes of doubling or tripling what we put in!

Consider what it would mean for you to feed whatever resources God has entrusted to you for the sake of multiplication in God’s Kingdom. Now, consider what resources God has already entrusted you with. You’re not going out to buy something on a proverbial shelf—instead you’re looking into the pantry. What’s already there? Maybe the resources God’s entrusted you with are as literal as flour and water needed for a starter or the money in this parable. Or perhaps they’re less tangible. Certain relationships, a position of power, a skill set, or a point of view. How might you invest those resources for the sake of multiplication today? For if we trust that God is continually fulfilling a mission of redemption in this world, then our investment is folded into the good work that God is already doing.
Sowing

March 6

Matthew 25: 18

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Brandon Rickabaugh
18“But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money."
Israel, the digger, Jesus is saying, has not been faithful with what the Lord, the master, has given them. Rather than being a light to the world, the Pharisees kept the light for themselves (5:14-16).

Sowing takes courage. To receive what God has given us—Jesus and his way of life in God’s Kingdom—and set it to work puts us in a vulnerable place. It means we are about to discover if the love of God is real, reliable, ever available, and charged with redemption.

What if God’s love fails? So much of our lived experience teaches us that love cannot be trusted. Real love—to cherish another and create what is good for them, is not what our culture is selling. We protect our life as we want it when Christ calls us to lose it.

Sowing takes trust; trust in Jesus to defeat suffering and to resurrect us for a meaningful life. If I do not trust, I bury God’s love, and I won’t know if it is real. I will be unable to live with love as the very center and source of my life. But seeing God’s love in action, especially through us, is what grows our confidence in Jesus. Children of light are electrified by radical dependence on the love of Jesus. They have not a buried life but a resurrected life of luminous love available to all they meet.

So, why would we bury love? The answer will always be the fear of losing control over how we want things to be. But sowing God’s love, seeing it multiply in the lives of others, reveals what we are afraid to lose as nothing compared to Jesus and his way of life. Those who know this in their depths cannot but live luminously. In stark contrast, a buried life is dark. A buried life does not live in Heaven now nor in Heaven and Earth eternal.

Lord, show me my fears. Sit with me next to what I’ve buried. Show me your love and its power to make me luminous for the world like you.

Practice: Sowing Into Others


Take a practical step today and sow into areas and people who would benefit from your gifts, talents, and resources.

If you've been in pursuit of justice and are you're looking for a way to give to the Black Community, learn about and consider giving to projects like "BuyBackBlackDebt". Some of these groups may be different than what you are accustomed to, and they may not have the fanciest websites or social media presences. However, sowing into visionary organizations, projects, and people who are creating new, life-giving ways of being will lead to systemic change and social healing.

Watch artist Takesada Matsutani's performance of "Stream". As you're watching journal using the following prompts:What is your impression of Matsutani's use of repetition? What do you make of the element of water used in the performance? Place yourself inside the performance. Where are you? What are you doing? What emotions are rising or falling for you as the performance unfolds?
Sustaining

March 7

Matthew 25: 19

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Jelyn Leyva
19“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them."
There are moments in life where God will entrust us with something and leave us to that which he entrusts. That level of agency and responsibility is not something that we should ever take lightly, and it is also not something we ever need be anxious over. He leaves us with the degree of responsibility according to our ability. Moreover, he leaves us always with enough to sustain ourselves in the interim of his absence.  

We sustain ourselves not just in the faith that he will return to us, but also in the purpose that he bestows on us through that which he entrusts. He gives us a reason to labor and meaning in which we can eventually take pride. In these moments, we are endowed not just with his faith in us—his faith that we will do what needs to be done—but also, we are enlivened by the purpose that responsibility entails.  

He believes in you. He believes that you are well within your ability to do the task at hand. Sustaining is no simple virtue. As it is trusting not just in yourself, but trusting in God, that he knows what he is doing when he asks something of you. In moments when faith feels small, when you feel that God has perhaps asked too much of you, take courage. He has given you exactly what you need to sustain.

Father, we thank you for trusting in us. In moments when we doubt that trust, breathe in us fresh life, so that we may rise to the occasion of your faith in us. We know, even if we might forget, that you always give us enough to do what you expect us to do in this life. May we rest in that assurance today.
Practice: Plant Lessons

Buy a small plant this week. Are you interested in cooking? Buy a fruit or vegetable plant. You may also choose to find a houseplant.

Commit to caring for this plant for the next several months and notice how it grows over time.
Profiting

March 8

Matthew 25: 20

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Alicia Webber
20“Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’"
Investment, trust, responsibility, and risk are all intertwined in relationship. Some of us may think we are far from business savvy, yet from childhood we have become masters of calculating risk and negotiating the maximum profit-margins. What will happen if I choose not to do what mom says? If I eat those vegetables you repeatedly asked me to eat, can I have ice cream… and watch a movie … and go to bed late? We’ve even factored in the ever-increasing level of frustration in the prolonged procrastination of eating our vegetables to know how many things we can add to our profit list during negotiations.

The relationship between parent and child is a good example of multiplied investment. Yes, children test their parents, but likewise parents test their children. As children grow in independence, parents begin to delegate more responsibilities to them, ability is measured and trust is gained and lost accordingly. Generally, the more trust is gained, the greater responsibility and independence. Parents invest in their children, knowing both the frustrations of disobedience and the joys of obedience.

I’ve heard parents say, “I want my ceiling to be your floor.” It is a parent’s delight to know that cultivating what has been entrusted to them is now more profitable than they could have imagined. Likewise, it can also be a source of sorrow and disappointment for some parents.  What have you been given? What has been cultivated and nurtured inside of you? Are you maximizing your profit margins? What impact, for better or worse, have you imprinted on the world with what has been entrusted to you?
Gaining

March 9

Matthew 25: 21

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Erin Choi
Benefiting

March 10

Matthew 25: 22

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: September Penn


Practice:
Putting Your Talents to Work


Where do you invest your resources? Your time? Your talents? What about your finances? There are many resources available for gaining wisdom on financial investing. Below you will find a few. If you are new to investing, skim these resources to see if any connect with your financial goals. If you are a seasoned investor, share these resources (and your wisdom!) with someone you know who is just entering the conversation.

1 | "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" by John Bogle.
2 | "The Simple Path to Wealth" by JL Collins
3 | Afford Anything (blog/podcast)
4| Ask Finny (personal finance educational website)
5 |
Mr. Money Mustache (blog)
22“And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’"
Today’s devotional examines the posture of benefiting. We should recognize that this action is for the good of everyone involved. Both the practitioners and the recipients experience a positive result.

Merriam-Webster defines benefiting: “to provide with something useful or desirable.” To give greater context, they offer words related to benefiting - “succeeding, working (for) … bettering, improving.” Our scripture passage records both the servant and the master benefiting. I’d like to offer a personal testimony.

As I write this devotional, my family is packing our apartment and moving to a new home in L.A. We've lived here for over four years. We've benefited from the situation because the location provided good schools for our kids. The crime rate is low, and we've felt comfortable having our children walk home from school. We've also benefited from the convenience of being able to walk to grocery stores and downtown for dining and entertainment.

Our landlord has benefited because we've always paid our rent on time. We developed a good relationship with him by not calling him for small repairs. He basically never heard from us. When we told him that we were moving he almost cried stating, “You all have been such good tenants.” He also benefits from the improvements we made. We installed new showerheads, painted the walls and doors, and are leaving our stainless-steel refrigerator in the unit. We will be leaving the unit in better shape than it was when we arrived. As Merriam-Webster states, we did the work of “bettering” and “improving” the unit.

Now let’s look again at the servant’s handling of the talents entrusted to him. He doubled them! The next verse reads, “His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’” (MSG) Both the servant and the master gain a reward. May we all choose to practice the posture of benefiting. May we not simply complain and hide our gifts thinking they are not enough. May we be resourceful. God can then multiply our gifts and receive glory. We will all benefit from each other’s work.
Earning

March 11

Matthew 25: 23

Movement Liturgy: Brianna Kinsman
23"His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’"

W
e’ve spent the past week thinking through the repercussions of time and the need to prepare for what will come. The latter presupposes that


Practice:
Movement Liturgy Video


Watch the accompanying video as you read through the movement liturgy.
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
Honoring

March12

Matthew 25: 24

Art: K. McFarland
Reflection: Anastasia Fuentes
24“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;"
According to the Oxford dictionary, the English definition of “honor” combines having high respect, adhering to what is right, and fulfilling one’s obligations. However, in the Bible we see many different Hebrew and Greek words translated into English as “honor.”

When we examine these original words, their rich nuances can creatively expand our imaginations as we surround a passage with all their shades of meaning. For example, when we read “Honor the Lord from your wealth / And from the first of all your produce” in Proverbs 3:9, we can imagine taking great heaping piles of our possessions as an offering to God – so much that no one person can hold it all or they would be buried under the abundance.

Or, when we read “Pray for us, for we are…desiring to act honorably in all things” in Hebrews 13:18, we can think about what it would look like for us to act in only beautiful, excellent, right, noble, commendable, and healthy ways. Researching and using different words like these can help us recognize our feelings, our thoughts, and our actions more clearly and be more open to the Holy Spirit’s loving guidance.

In Scripture, we learn that we should especially honor our parents, the aged, spiritual leaders including priests and elders, spouses, and widows. However, we are to honor everyone despite differences in capacity and dignity, even those who aren’t fellow believers. And, when we faithfully honor, serve, trust in, and rely on God, God honors us.

Of course, the demand for honor has often been manipulatively twisted by people looking to oppress those around them, and sometimes life looks warped – those who are acting right are dishonored and those who are tormentors receive honor. If you are experiencing this distortion, you may find comfort in the wisdom of Job and Ecclesiastes who talk about these absurdities in light of their relationship with God.

For further reading, see Ex. 20:12, Deut. 5:16, Lev. 19:32, Lam. 4:16, 1 Tim. 5, 1 Pet. 2-3, Rom. 12:10, 1 Cor. 12, 1 Sam. 2:30, Psalm 91, and John 12:26.


Practice: Different Lenses


Journaling Prompt:
Bring to mind a time when you failed to honor someone in your life. This person may be someone you know well, an acquaintance, or a stranger. Write out the story from the other person's perspective.   
Confessing

March 13

Matthew 25: 25

Art: Andrea Kraybill
Reflection: Anastasia Fuentes


Practice: Dallas Willard on Confession


Listen and reflect on Dallas Willard's talk titled "Confession, Meditation, Rules of Life".
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
25 “[...] so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’"
It’s interesting that both the Old and New Testaments talk about confession in the twin contexts of openly declaring one’s sin, as well as openly declaring that God is one’s God. This is particularly thought-provoking in the aftermath of many well-known evangelical Christian leaders being ‘deposed’ for sexual sins or other abuses. What if it was normative for us Christians to confess our sins (and not just the sins we are more comfortable with) as often as we confess our belief in and allegiance to God?

What if we confessed our greed of time, money, and resources?

How often have we held back blessings that we could share with someone who needs love, to be listened to, or a home-cooked meal?

What about someone who needs us to spend a lot of time understanding current policies and laws so that we advocate for and vote in a way that brings life to our neighbors?

What if we confessed our lack of love and forgiveness?

Excluding situations of abuse (another conversation), are we willing to reach out to anyone who has hurt us or who frustrates us and treat them with kindness and dignity? If we are too hurt or overwhelmed to treat someone this way, are we seeking ways to heal?

Are we willing to do life, have deep conversations, and develop trust with people who don’t look like us, vote like us, believe like us, or love like us?

What if we confessed our laziness and apathy?

How hard do we try to discern between letting little wrongs go at work because someone needs grace and letting little wrongs go because we don’t want to get involved?

Confessing our sins alongside our dedication to God isn’t because God needs to hear these things from us. It’s for humans – ourselves and our neighbors. We need to hear our own voices, name what’s inside us, whether good or evil, in order to recognize it, and we need our community to hold us accountable and strengthen us as we face our realities together.
Perceiving

March 14

Matthew 25: 26

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Jelyn Leyva
26“But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?"
Inevitably, we will encounter difficulties in our lifetime; moments, be them of our making or of something external, that might tempt us to question the very character of God. This is a folly of perception. Like the wicked servant, who himself questioned the character of his Master and acted based on his idea of the Master: “Master, I knew you were a hard man… So, I….” Worse, he used his perception to justify his actions.  

Be vigilant of your perceptions and be careful of hiding behind shadows of thought. While God is patient with those whom he loves, there is little space made for actions based on broken perception. Today, take moments of reflection and ask yourself where there might be untrue shadows of God existing in your thoughts. Ask yourself, where those thoughts are inspired and if they hold basis in the light.  

Finally, be honest with yourself and ask how those shadows might be causing you to act in a way that is contrary to the life of abundance, which we are called to live into. The folly of perception, is at its end, a deprivation of faith. It is the belief that when little is given, little is required. But our God is a God of abundance and of overflowing. Have faith today, that what might seem like little is always sufficient in an economy of God.

God, in moments when we might be embittered towards you, help us not to act foolishly in the shadows of our thoughts of you. Help us to truly feel your goodness towards us, even if it is not clear by sight. Be gracious to us in our limited understanding. What we do know and proclaim today is that what you entrust to us is enough for us to live into the abundant life that you desire for us.
Correcting

March 15

Matthew 25: 27

Performance: September Penn
Reflection: Michaela O'Donnell

Practice:
Give and Receive Feedback


While it is important to learn how to receive correction, it is equally important to know how to offer correction to someone when needed. Watch LeeAnn Renninger's Ted Talk to learn "The Secret to Giving Great Feedback".
27"Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest."
Correction is an odd thing. When correction is given or received poorly it can be a source of shame and fear. But, when given or received well, correction can be an agent of growth in our lives. Of course, we can’t control how someone else gives or receives correction. It’s a lot just to try to manage our own words and emotions in such moments.

So what does meaningful correction actually look like? How do we fruitfully steer a young child who’s learning to spell or a family member who’s said something racist at Christmas? How do we accept feedback from our boss about a recent project that didn't go well, or from a partner that’s frustrated about how we’re loading the dishwasher?

Without trying to be over simplistic—I think how we move through these types of moments has a lot to do with dignity. Dignity for each other and dignity for ourselves. For, if we really do believe that the same God who filled the ocean with water and the sky with stars made us, then we’re compelled to admire and honor every human as bearing the stamp of God’s image.

So, in correcting—we can aim to give and receive it with dignity. Sometimes dignity comes out looking a lot like clarity and kindness. Other times it looks more like empathy and patience. Still, other times dignity looks like self-advocacy and firmness. Consider the last time you gave correction. Did you do so with dignity? Now consider the last time you received correction. Did you do so with dignity? How might dignity frame correction for you in the future?
Yielding

March 16

Matthew 25: 28

Music: Joy Ike
Reflection: Karen Reed


Practice: Learning About "Ambiguous Loss"


Visit On Being's website and listen to Krista Tippett's conversation with Pauline Boss on "Navigating Loss Without Closure".
28“So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents."
As I reflect upon the movement in this scripture, the movement is not favorable for the servant. The servant was forced into yielding what was initially given to him. Yielding is a gesture that can be displayed in two meanings: a posture of faith that will yield in increase, and a posture of giving up that yields to nothing.

Sometimes we allow F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) to be a focal point that causes us to miss the essence of the gifts that are graced to us. How can we learn from this servant? God’s gifts are precious, and each of us has been chosen to be the bearer of those assigned gifts. Life will present situations that will challenge us in many ways, but our God-given gifts are there to bless us. When we choose not to activate those gifts, it not only becomes an insult to God, but a bottle cap that prohibits us from growing, developing, and profiting. Seeking wisdom and knowledge for that which has been assigned and gifted are perfectly fine. This demonstrates that we have accepted what has been given and are willing to do our best in working at it.

In this season of lent, let us seek God for the understanding and use of our gifts and resources that may yield to increased knowledge, fruitfulness, and greater impact for good. Yielding to fear yields nothing. Let us not miss our gains by having to yield what we have not used to someone else; but let us move into yielding to what was given us knowing we are the assigned bearer and God honors our faith in yielding.
Reaping

March 17

Matthew 25: 29

Art: Megan Kenyon
Reflection: Anastasia Fuentes
29"For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
Our lives are like a plot of land. The soil composition, geography, weather, and starter crop are beyond our capacity to control – we inherit aspects of our nature from our ancestors and we live in particular sociopolitical realities that often determine the language we speak, the lifestyle we grow up in, the educational opportunities we have, and many other factors. We will never be able to change what we start with, but we do have opportunities to respond to these influences in many different ways.

Matthew 25 depicts three scenarios in which people have been faced with a particular situation and have had access to different possible ways of reacting. The first situation (verses 1-13) is the choice to prepare for what you know is eventually coming  and staying alert, or to not prepare until you see action happening. The second situation (14-30) offers a choice between building on what you are given, or hiding your “talent” out of fear. The third situation (31-46) depicts the results of choosing to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned, or to ignore those in need.

In each situation, people are portrayed as having some agency to choose how they respond, or, which ‘seeds’ they sow into their ‘life-pot.’ Some seeds bring life, which manifests in many different ways. They are nutritious seeds which keep us in the light, witnessing growth, and in fellowship with God. However, other seeds produce confusion, ill-preparedness, fear, short-sightedness, and exclusion.

What kind of ‘ground’ were you born into? Rocky? Fertile? Have you been able to invest in renewing your ‘soil’?

What ‘seeds’ have you invested in cultivating your life so far? Where did you find them? How are they growing? Do you need to pay more attention to caring for any developing plants?

Who else has access to plant in your garden? What kind of seeds do they bring with them? Stinging nettles and poison ivy? Or pollinator flowers, juicy tomatoes, and strawberries?

What do you want to reap at the end of your life?
Practice: HubSpot on Decision Making

Read through HubSpot's comprehensive guide on decision making. This guide is geared towards business and community leaders, but you may also find it helpful for personal use.
30“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
So much of Matthew’s Gospel is a beautiful, bountiful expression of the upside nature of God’s kingdom.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek and the merciful and the hungry, the peacemakers and the persecuted…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


These are not representations of earth’s scarce economy, but rather manifestations of God’s extravagant grace. So how then are we to interpret the damning denouement of this scathing parable? A worthless servant thrown outside, into the darkness, bearing witness to weeping and gnashing of teeth? My goodness, God! Where is your gracious kingdom here? And does any servant deserve such?

We are all him, you know. The fearful servant. But also the wise one.

The one who knows how hard this world is, a world that impoverishes one’s spirit, brings mourning upon the meek and robs the peace of the persecuted. We have much to be wary of, for this world can be far too cruel for kindness. So what then of this worrisome word here in our passage?

First, I don’t believe Jesus to be the merciless master in this parable. For the heart of our God is everything not represented here: gracious, forgiving, loving, and kind. But rather, I see this ruler serving as a representation of the wrongful ways of this world, rather than a reflection of our own wickedness. And yet, our repentant response to this world is not to run and shun. But rather, to give anyway: a broken spirit, a mourning heart, a merciful hand, an offering of peace. Our way of giving God’s goodness to this world is to pour out in all the ways this world won’t.

We sow tender seeds of Heaven even upon the calloused concrete of this earth. And we trust God will break the ground. For if we don’t sow, then this will be a world of weeping, a despair of darkness. We serve a Master who calls us to plant vineyards even in exile. To love a world that doesn’t love back. Just like another suffering servant did, our Lord Jesus.
CHAPTER
3
Matthew 25: 31-46
Envisioning

March 19

Matthew 25: 31

Art: Julia Hendrickson
Reflection: Dea Jenkins
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory."
Many of us are reeling from the news that came out of Atlanta on March 16th. Some of us are scratching our heads wondering why there is still a question of whether the shootings were racially motivated. The inability to name “racism” as “racism” allows it to linger, to wander, to roam around until it finds a resting place to nestle into. That love of the indecisive is decisive enough to grant racism permission to simply be, to rest in the air, permeating the atmosphere until it sinks into our bones, into our very beings.

If you can’t call a thing what it is, if you can’t properly and fully name it, how can you ever know it? How can you ever understand it? If you can’t understand it how can you ever move beyond it? How can you ever heal? The inability to name a “thing” a “thing” is emblematic of the poison of privileged indecision. Indecision renders you incapable of ever moving forward. You are stuck looking at a multitude of options, ever contemplating, ever wondering, but never taking the step to move forward. That first step always requires looking at whatever the atrocity is that is hovering just over your shoulder. Once you’ve looked you must name.

Not wanting to prematurely identify a hate crime as racially-motivated seems tactful. However, what this does is offer racism time to percolate in the nethers. It need do nothing because you have done all the work in your contemplating. All that working to test and see and prod and question causes you to miss the opportunity. You must denounce racism from the moment you see it - it cannot be allowed to linger.

It is with this unction of the Spirit that we move into the final phase of Lenten Gestures. Allow today’s prompt, “envisioning”, to compel you to envision a world that has found a way to move beyond the deathly void of the nameless. In order to step into what can be, we must name what we envision. To name what we envision also requires naming what is.
Practice: Counter Mapping Part 1/3

Watch Emergence Magazine's video on counter mapping.

Practice: Counter Mapping 2/3


Complete an ecological examen. You may choose to follow along with an Ignatian-inspired examen, or conduct your own.

After, try conducting a social examen using the same principles of the ecological examen. You may find it helpful to narrow your scope for the social examen by focusing on your neighborhood.
32"All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,"
Gathering is so inherently part of how we experience life that not being able to do so has been a painful experience this past year. We gather for so many reasons, among them to feel safe, to know that we’re not alone and that we belong somewhere. We sense the power in gathering with others, whether it’s for our own personal well-being or for the greater good of the world. The Son of Man gathers all peoples first, then regathers everybody into two categories. These new groups are gathered not according to most categories we might ourselves choose to gather, like class or ethnicity or level of education. Instead, the gathering ends up being based on whether people treat people who are suffering with compassion.

One of the big subversions here is Jesus in his glory tells the people of the world that he himself was one of those on the margins. He chooses to identify himself with those who are suffering, gathers with them and watches to see who will serve him, not because of his status or power, but out of love and compassion for those most in need of it.

That means we need to think about where our love and passion take us. What spaces do we find ourselves in? Often we gravitate to where we find our own needs and fears met and satisfied. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But do we go looking for others who may also be in need, or do we choose to gather in spaces where we don’t have to think about others’ needs? However much we want to be in those spaces where money and privilege shut out or exclude people who are suffering, we will end up being blind to the needs of others and miss seeing Jesus altogether. However we choose to gather and spend our time, money, and resources will have great implications on which gathering we will ultimately be a part of at the end of time. Knowing the consequences, which kind of gathering do we choose right now?
Refining

March 21

Matthew 25: 33

Art and Reflection: Dea Jenkins

Practice:
Counter Mapping Part 3/3


Pulling from the counter mapping video and your environment examen, create your own counter map. Before you begin making your map, consider what a just, equitable, and healthy society might look like.
Your map can be as narrow as your neighborhood or as broad as the entire world. You can make your map using any medium.

Prompts to consider:
1 | Who are you creating the map for?
2 | What boundaries are you crossing in your map?
3 | Who (or what) is left out of what you envision?
4 | Who is informing your ideas of what a just, equitable, and healthy society might look like?
33"and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left."
Though I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that I could fully leave 2020 behind, I was determined to plunge into the potential of 2021. And for a while I truly thought I could. However, while I was busy focusing on new project launches and making art, my body was experiencing a different reality. Though my mind had moved forward, my body was still stuck in the heart wrenching cycle of trauma, freeze, and response. I knew this wasn’t just my own rhythm I was tapping into - our collective rhythms wreak havoc on our bodies too. Trauma experienced in the body is a wise source of knowledge if we are willing to listen.

More than our individual plights, 2020 forced us to recall what it means to be part of a collective. Even with all of our fractures we are still intimately connected. So, when one part of our collective being is hurting, I feel it. I would hope you would be able to say the same.

Walking through Matthew 25, we’ve asked key questions: Are we prepared to receive what God desires to give? Are we wise enough to put to work what God has given? Now, we are asked to consider how our presence impacts others. Do we see one another? Do we go beyond seeing and dare to act in love? What about when we witness acts of hate rather than love? Matthew 25 makes it clear that what we aren’t free to do is live as though another person’s suffering, pain, or even wrongful death is irrelevant.

When the Son of Man finally refines His creation by gathering and separating this fractured collective, it seems that His decisive judgments will be based solely on how well we loved one another. It is with this piercing reality that I allow my body’s deep-seated wisdom to guide me into truthful acts of healing and love. If my body will not let me be because it feels the weight of social pain, then I should not rest until I have addressed what is causing my internal weeping.  
Inheriting

March 22

Matthew 25: 34

Art: Patti Ann Yukawa
Reflection: Michael Wear

Practice: Native Lands


Whose land are you living on? Have you considered the generations of people who came before you?

1 | Text the name of the city/town you live in to
(907) 312-5085.
2 | Follow up your inquiry by exploring Native-Land.ca to learn more about the native peoples of the land you live on.
34"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;"
The idea of an inheritance can be unsettling, especially today with so much talk of self-creation. To inherit something implicates a relationship, a prior claim. The inheritance is dependent on someone else, or else there is nothing to inherit. Inheriting is one of the few things a person does that actually takes the focus off of themselves. ‘I will inherit…” From who? What is theirs for you to inherit?

The inheritance looms large in the life of the inheritor. They can accept or reject their inheritance, but everything is in reaction to it. It’s just reality.

From the time Jesus arrived on the scene, he announced an inheritance that was somehow available to all kinds of different people because of him and his father. The idea of an inheritance from God played a large role in the imagination of people long before Jesus came around, but it was Jesus who brought a new clarity to what inheritances always implicate: From who? What is theirs for you to inherit?

In Mark’s Gospel, we’re told of a man who must have heard about Jesus’s claims, because he found out where Jesus was, ran up to him and fell to his knees in front of Jesus. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The man was not prepared to accept the claim on his life implicated by the inheritance (Jesus would answer a similar question by responding that in order to inherit eternal life you must be “born again”), and so sadly left.

Jesus’ disciples were shocked by this exchange. After the man departed, they asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus told them, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

That’s the thing about inheritances: they require a relationship. They require another’s intent. To accept an inheritance is to accept that you are not your own, and to live in the light of that reality. You were made with great intention, to be blessed, “to inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Sharing

March 23

Matthew 25: 35

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Meredith Miller
35“for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,"
We started a new church in the summer of 2019 in the simplest way: we ate together. Over crunchy summer salad and slightly charred chicken, we shared stories. And then, the next week, we did it again.

Week after week we sat at the table. As we ate and drank together, strangers became friends. Each week we left full and more fully known, because we shared food and shared our lives.

It's remarkable. If we are hungry, thirsty, and lonely, all three needs can be met when we sit down at the table. We can be fed, we can be quenched, we can be known.

And of course, ours is a table-centered story.

At Passover, we are the freed. Over dishes of manna and quail we are the cared for. Over wedding wine we are the joyful. At the Last Supper, we are the friends of the messiah. Over grilled fish on a beach, we are the restored.

Over meals we became who we are. Such is the power of sharing the table. After so long, the chance to gather around tables again is coming soon. We can decide now to save a seat for the stranger, fix a plate for the hungry, pour a glass for the thirsty. We can share our table, and in so doing, see Christ.

Christ who ate and drank at the table, may we be eager to make space where others are fed, quenched and known. When we share our tables, help us see you there among us. Amen.

Practice:
Racial Justice Guidebook


Developing an equitable, anti-racist society is incredibly challenging work. We are not able to do this work alone.

1 | Connect with 2-3 other people you know who are also doing the work of developing an anti-racist, healed world.

2 | Together, read through the "Racial Justice Guidebook" curated by The People's Supper to learn more about how you might contribute to this movement.

Watch artist Takesada Matsutani's performance of "Stream". As you're watching journal using the following prompts:What is your impression of Matsutani's use of repetition? What do you make of the element of water used in the performance? Place yourself inside the performance. Where are you? What are you doing? What emotions are rising or falling for you as the performance unfolds?
CAring

March 24

Matthew 25: 36

Photography: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Meredith Miller
36“I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’"
When I was younger and first heard that Jesus said this, it was presented with an assumption of innocence. The “least of these” were unfortunate, they’d fallen on hard times. They deserved this care.

But as family separation began at the U.S. border, and I heard fellow believers say we should withhold care because the border-crossers had broken a law, I returned to Jesus’ words. Especially about that prisoner.

What if the prisoner was guilty? What if they absolutely did the terrible thing? Would Jesus take them off this list? Would we be released from our responsibility to care for them in Jesus’ name?

Or might it be that Jesus longs all the more that the guilty receive care?

Sometimes we are withholding while our God is lavish.We think that deservedness is a prerequisite for care.

Or that innocence makes someone more worthy of compassion.

The naked, the sick, the prisoner invite not only a feeling of compassion, but an act of it. Not an emotion of caring, but a gesture of it. Because being cared for reminds us that our deservedness comes not from what we do, but who we are. We are worthy of care, no matter what choices we’ve made. And as we care for others, we embody the truth of their worthiness as well.

Oh Jesus, Who have I withheld care from, deeming them unworthy?  May I see you in them, and give them the care they need, whether they deserve it or not. Amen.
Practice: Better Conversations

Download and share On Being's "Better Conversations Guide" to help you and your community create meaningful and empathetic conversations on race.
Questioning

March 25

Matthew 25: 37

Art: Julia Hendrickson
Reflection: Brandon Rickabaugh
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?"
Jesus loves hard questions. His strange and surprising way of life provokes questions. The Disciples questioned Jesus constantly (Mat. 17:19, 19:17; Mk. 4:10, 10:10; 13:3; Lk. 20:28). Jesus often taught through questions. Although rarely encouraged today, questioning is a profound spiritual practice available right where we are.  

Some questioned Jesus with hostility (Lk. 11:53), intending to undermine him (Matt. 22:23-42). This never succeeded (Matt. 22:33, 46). Others questioned Jesus to draw closer to Him. I call this holy questioning. The “righteous” in this passage are perplexed. They want to move from ignorance to understanding, from nescience to knowledge of God which is eternal life (Jn. 17:3).

Were you really with us then?

To ask holy questions is to die to self. It requires vulnerability. Our questions reveal our heart. We admit our ignorance and lack of belief to embrace dependence on God’s self-revelation. We respond to Divine love with vital curiosity, cherishing Jesus in which all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). Where are you? To ask holy questions is to seek God where we are right now. But seeking means that sometimes God is hidden (Job 23:8; Ps. 10: 1, 44: 23-24; Is. 45: 15). Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom—God ‘s activity in the world—as hidden, like a mustard seed (Matt.13:31), a leaven hid in flour (Matt. 13:33), and “a treasure hid in the field” (Matt. 13:44). God works in whispers and glimpses.

Will you be here tomorrow?

God provides empty spaces so we can become who we want to be, especially for those who want to become like Jesus. Holy questioning is a means of spiritual formation into the likeness of Jesus, where we see more of who we are in relation to who Jesus is. The space that God leaves empty invites our questioning as a way to bring ourselves to Jesus.

Lord, give us the grace to connect with you in our most profound questions, especially those too painful to speak.

Refelcting

March 26

Matthew 25: 38

Art: Patti Ann Yukawa
Reflection: Bethany Fox
38“And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?"
I wonder about the tone of these questions.

Disbelieving?
Baffled?
Genuinely curious?

Each of these, it feels like, can be a different way to respond to the image and presence of God in a stranger we encounter, like the one described in the text, who might be in need of clothes, water, a friend.

Let’s be real. A lonely, thirsty, naked stranger can be kind of intimidating.

So then, maybe we’re disbelieving. Like, nah, you weren’t in there, Jesus. We did meet some folks along the road of life, helped them out, but that wasn’t you. These were some messed up folks. That isn’t what you’re like, Jesus. Maybe you were with these folks in some ethereal spiritual way, but it’s not like the person was you. That just isn’t possible. No.

Or maybe we’re baffled. Like, we are being told that the human beings we helped along the way were bearers of God’s image. Or even more, that Jesus is in there. But it can feel disorienting that God dwells in people who might be in serious need of a shower, or who scream profanities to no one in particular, or are in prison, or are super irritating, or just seem needy. We are hearing Jesus say he’s there. We may occasionally catch a glimpse. But it’s kind of confusing. How does it happen, exactly, that Jesus could end up in such a state? Why were these folks, as Jesus, not treated with the tenderness and sacredness worthy of them? Is it really true or not? Baffling.

Or…maybe we believe Jesus when he says that it was him? And with open hearts, we consider what this means. We remain curious about it. We ask for new, better ways of perception. We begin to notice Jesus everywhere. In some real way Jesus is the folks we meet who are strangers. Thirsty. Friendless. Tattered. Naked.

And that Jesus is in us when we are these things too.
Seeking

March 27

Matthew 25: 39

Art: Randy Working
Reflection: Inés McBryde


Practice: Borderlands


Watch Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in "Borderlands" by Art21.
39“And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’"
Jesus took one look at Simon and immediately saw the future Peter (John 1:42). Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree before Nathaniel saw the One who created the fig tree (John 1:48). Jesus saw the widow who had just lost her only son. “He saw her and felt compassion for her.” Then, Jesus gave the dead man back to his mother (Luke 7:13-15). Jesus said to Simon, the Pharisee, while turning towards and locking eyes with the woman who had just washed his feet, “Do you see this woman?” You saw a sinner. I see a forgiven saint (Luke 7:44).

The intimate gaze of Jesus resulted in intimate provision and revelation through Jesus. There wasn’t a barrier with humans that Jesus would not cross in order to be with and provide for weary hearts and needy souls. It started with his eyes. A deep seeing rendered an even deeper being.

Jesus’ sight provides insight for us. Our eyes need salvation. Our un-seeing is revealing. Look for the eyes. Get close enough to see eyes. That’s where the deep seeing begins.

Did you see the eyes of your friend trying to gather the words to tell you that you hurt her? Do you see the eyes of your children talking to you as you fixate your eyes on your phone? Do you see the eyes of those carrying sustained grief, sadness, anxiety? Did you see the eyes of traumatized Central American children at the border? Did you see the terrified eyes of Asian-American survivors of racialized hate crimes? Haven't masks re-trained us to see eyes?

When did we see you...and come to You?

It starts with the eyes.

Seeking begins with seeing.

Seeing precedes coming towards another.

The face of God comes into clearest focus in the face of Jesus.
The face of Jesus comes into clearest focus in the face of us.
You will find Jesus in the seeking of the eyes, for to see another is to see the face of God.
Illuminating

March 28

Matthew 25: 40

Art: Jess Velarde
Reflection: Kristina Moncrieffe
40"And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’"

W
hat does it mean to “do for the least of these?” As a therapist, I think of embodying Christ in the simple things. In the gospels, Jesus listens to peoples’ stories and addresses their needs, and this is the most obvious way that I see my vocation imitating Him. As history unfolds through 2020 and 2021, we have been presented with several poignant moments of conflict that beckons us to decide how we will enact the love of Christ. How are we clothing others, feeding others, and giving water to those who are thirsty? Relatedly, how are we doing this for ourselves? And in doing so, are we extending blessing and resource for our own glorification, or in hidden places, seen only by the eyes of God?

Of course, there’s an obvious crisis of homelessness in our city that needs addressing, as well as the race-related civil unrest that cries out for unifying healing. But there are more subtle opportunities to embody the gospel’s call in your day to day life. In what ways does your own vocation give you opportunities to imitate Christ?

What stands out to me in this passage is the way that the sheep and goats are divided up by their willingness. In psychology, we talk with people about their ability to accept their current circumstances and bring necessary change in terms of their rigid willfulness or their flexible willingness—it’s the difference between a closed fist and an open palm. The goats receive condemnation when they refuse to offer aid and care. So, this passage offers an opportunity for all, even if the actionable item isn’t obvious. The point I’ve drawn is—are you willing to see and hear the least of these? For that is where we begin to be the hands and feet of God.


Practice:
The 1619 Project


Learn about The 1619 Project, originally shared by the New York Times.
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
Judging

March 29

Matthew 25: 41

Art: Dea Jenkins
Reflection: Rachel Coleman
41“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;"
This verse always brings another to mind: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword” (Mt 10:34). Both in the Sermon on the Mount, and there in Christ’s enjoinder to the disciples, we are met with almost serene descriptions of the life Christ asks of us, punctuated by moments of seeming harshness. These can be, at least for me, stumbling blocks, as the Church Fathers called those moments in Scripture with which we know not exactly what to do. But the Fathers also instruct us to pay attention to what in Scripture causes us to falter, perhaps giving more time and attention to exactly those moments.

Judgment is a double-edged sword. I think here of Psalm 149: “Let the praise of God be on their lips / and a two-edged sword in their hand”. We see in Scripture that to live as Christ asks us necessarily marks us, demarcates our position in the world. We indicate, incarnately, in the way we dispose ourselves to reality, that we know that this world has a source and a Savior, and it is to him, not the world, that we owe our allegiance. And in this disposition, we are often seen as “other”. I wonder then if judgment is not first or primarily an action we perform, but rather the natural consequence of conforming ourselves to the Lord, of living the way he asks of us in a world that often does the opposite.

Simply living a Christian lifestyle and making ourselves like Christ looks like judgment to the world. We ourselves do not judge because we ourselves are not the Judge. Judgment is rightfully the Lord’s domain, as he explains so decisively in this verse. But the key is this: insofar as we conform ourselves to his body, we radiate his good and merciful—and yes, sometimes seemingly harsh—judgment in our very being, in the way we live. We are not the source of judgment, but we are sometimes, perhaps, its presence in this world.


Practice: 360° View of "The Fall of the Rebel Angels"


Take a deep dive into Pieter Bruegel the Elder's 1562 painting reimagined by Google and the Royal museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Hint: Click on the video and drag your cursor around for a 360° exploration of the painting.
Revealing

March 30

Matthew 25: 42

Art: Katie Wigglesworth
Reflection: Alicia Webber


Practice:
Cole Arthur Riley on Empathy


Read and pray Cole Arthur Riley's liturgy for true empathy.
When we hear the word “consummating,” we immediately think of the fulfillment of a sexual act between new marital partners. However, consummating may also
42 “for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink"
Arguably Covid-19 has opened our eyes more to the reality that we are never in full control of the circumstances we may find ourselves in from day to day. Hopefully we have grown in compassion and generosity towards the needs of one another, yet lack and scarcity can bring us back to grasping for our equilibrium, a sense of control, security. Most of us, particularly in western culture, have been wired to be independent, and oftentimes find ourselves questioning or judging the needs of others. The debates are endless on the “right” way to help a homeless person, the effectiveness of governmental support programs, and when is the appropriate time to help someone for just about anything.

I was reminded of two Disney scenes. The first, the seagulls of Finding Nemo squawking, “mine, mine, mine,” and the second of Queen Elspeth in Snow White looking in the mirror anxiously asking, “Who is the fairest of them all.”  As humans, particularly if we grew up in an independent culture, we are prone to both - not only is what I have mine, but I want to have more than anyone else. We are prone to give when we deem something or someone as worthy and when our own perceived needs are met. There is a slippery slope to selfishness that disables us from seeing and engaging in the needs of others, what is the antidote?

Imagine that Queen Elspeth looked in the mirror, she saw herself along with every other human.  She asked a different question, “Who among us is worthy?” Quickly she realizes the depth of her question and continues speaking, “Who among us is in need? Help me to see what you see.” After some time, she puts the mirror down and begins to weep. Her eyes have finally perceived the commonality of humanity and she begins to use her hands and feet.
Seeing

March 31

Matthew 25: 43

Art: Jess Velarde
Reflection: Bobby Harrison


Practice: The Stations of the Cross with Ellsworth Kelly


Read Locus Iste's exploration of Ellsworth Kelly's Stations of the Cross in the exhibition "Austin".   
31“But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?" I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
The initial instinct, after such a heart-wrenching indictment, is to respond back with innocence and ignorance:

“If only we had known it was you, Jesus.”

"If only you had revealed yourself.”

"If only our eyes had been better trained to see.”

But you see, our eyes have been trained to see. We see you, King Jesus, in your royalty and robes. Purples and processions and possessions aplenty. Power and privilege. Majesty and might. A Kingdom come as our will is done. Aren’t these the true makings and marks of a true leader and Lord?

You see, we were looking for thrones, not thorns, Jesus. For gold, not wood. For wine, not blood. Bread in abundance, not a body laid bare. We expected to see you raise the resistance. To fight back with sword and strength. To call on the heavenly host with flashes of lighting and rolls of thunder. To take what is yours. That’s what we wanted to see, Jesus. A victory of arms and bounty. Treasures seen, not a faith unseen. And yet, dear Jesus, we should have seen. For you were surely showing us all along.

A Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. A healed leper running back to give you thanks. A woman touching just the hem of your cloak. A tax collector whose table you shared. A healed blind man cast out of the temple but embraced by you. A repentant prisoner beside you on that cross, a criminal promised paradise, beside you forevermore.
You were giving us eyes to see every step of the way. A light unto our path, a lamp unto our feet. And even now, a flame within. A heart burning in seeing not only you in the least of these, but our very selves as well. For we are our sister’s keeper, are we not, Lord? May we see what you've already shown, Jesus. Forgive us, Lord.

God, in moments when we might be embittered towards you, help us not to act foolishly in the shadows of our thoughts of you. Help us to truly feel your goodness towards us, even if it is not clear by sight. Be gracious to us in our limited understanding. What we do know and proclaim today is that what you entrust to us is enough for us to live into the abundant life that you desire for us.
Petitioning

April 1

Matthew 25: 44

Art: Katie Wigglesworth
Reflection: Alicia Webber

Practice: Write a Collect Prayer


Reflect on your Lenten journey these past several weeks and write a collect prayer. You can use David Taylor's breakdown of a collect prayer as your guide.
44"Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’"
Have you ever had a teacher say, “there is no such thing as a stupid question?” I have always wanted to debate this, as all of us have been in a place where internally we have thought, “that is a stupid question.” In these moments, we believe something is common sense, as if to say, how could you not know the answer? It is easy to read this scripture and think, “Wow, that is an alarming question, how could they not know?,” yet there are increased levels of apathy to various areas of injustice in our world today. How often do we pass by the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned?

Choosing to engage rather than be apathetic can be overwhelming, but I encourage you to begin noticing and asking people their names. When Jesus passed by those who needed ministering to, he called them to himself by name, indicating value and worth. Oftentimes, the least of these would be passed by day after day without acknowledgement, nameless. Yet, when called by name there was an empowerment to rise, to be healed, and to be restored to community.

As the commandments go, love God and love others. God functions within relationship, and we too are called to extend this function and to be community to those marginalized and isolated among us. May we not pass by Jesus within humanity today.
45“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’"
We live in a world marked by suffering—a world plagued by unforeseen loss, structural oppression, and never-ending violence. We incessantly witness the suffering of others as we scroll down our tiny screens, turn on the news, and drive down our restless cities that fail to house the weary and cold bodies looking for the warmth of home. Our everyday exposure to the suffering of others makes us grow increasingly indifferent, as we turn our backs away from those in dire need to safeguard our own time and resources. Or, on the other hand, we may feel a tinge of self-righteousness in our attempts to help, with insidious feelings of superiority lurking in the corner.

Between our mindless inaction or frantic workaholism, do we pause to ask ourselves, "Where can we find Christ in the midst of the suffering we witness?"

In the verse above, Christ unveils to us that he himself is the recipient of our actions when we attend to the needs of the "least of these." However, the unveiling here is twofold: Christ not only reveals to us God's loving solidarity with the "least of these," but also that the "least of these" are those who mediate the presence of Christ before us. They are not the objects of our charity but are subjects who reveal to us the true heart of God—a heart that breaks for and with the downtrodden and the marginalized.

To see Christ is to see the sacred in the people the world often casts off as irredeemable and insignificant. Our relationship with God and our relationship with our vulnerable neighbors are intricately intertwined, for Christ continues to partake in the suffering with those hidden between the fissure and crevices of our broken world.

Christ is God with us, working with us towards the delivering of this world. Christ is God with us, one among the vulnerable, bearing their weight of pain.  Where there is suffering, there God is. Where there is suffering, there Love is. Heaven meets earth when the highest (King of kings) and lowest (“least of these”) become one.
Liberating

April 3

Matthew 25: 46

Art: Megan Kenyon
Reflection: Brandon Rickabaugh
46"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Do you want eternal life? It depends on what kind of life it will be. Your life might overflow with goodness, truth, and beauty that gushes from being united with the One who is eternal in every perfect way. Do you want that? Not everyone does. Before this passage, Jesus distinguished between those for him and those against him (12:30).  

Eternal life is permeated with the love of the Father, which is eternal in both its duration and its quality. It is a life of teaming with perfect goodness without end. The eternal life Jesus brings is one of true deliverance or liberation. Liberation not only from guilt but from the dark oppression of present sin. Eternal life, in both duration and quality, begins now. This means that my life right now, who I am, how I live, whether or not I cherish and care for those in need, is tethered to my eternal destiny.

Eternal punishment and eternal life are a result of the kind of people we become. Christ’s liberation is neither private nor passive but involves placing our confidence in Jesus by the empowering activity of God as we take up Jesus's way of life, which always includes loving service to others.

What about those against Jesus wanting nothing to do with him? They receive what they want, eternal life without him. Jesus does not force his eternal life on anyone. Rejecting the liberation of Jesus is to habitually choose to be oppressed by sin. The liberating love of God is as serious as the eternal consequence of who we become. Apart from Jesus, there is no liberation, no deliverance. This is not an arbitrary judgment but the natural outcome for those who would rather have life on their own terms rather than the life of Christ.

Lord, what kind of life do I really want? Who have I chosen to become by how I live? Give me a rich vision of how my confidence in you is tied to caring for those in need.
Practice: Spring Cleaning

While the idea of spring cleaning may seem like an odd practice to engage in at the tail end of Lent, deep cleaning our physical spaces can have an incredible impact on our emotional and mental well-being. Further, spring cleaning makes way for fresh starts and new beginnings. As we've explored the need to live in such a way that we are demonstrating our love for Jesus by how well we love others, physically cleaning and organizing can jump start the cleaning and organizing within us.

Need more proof? Check out this article by CNN and read The Spruce's "6 Tips for Successful Spring Cleaning".
Closing Statement

April 3

Written by: Juan Sarmiento
30“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
Our authors and artists provided us with windows into scriptures representing Jesus’s own “closing statement” before the events leading to his execution. Like in many other instances throughout the gospel, his teachings focus on the reality of the kingdom of God. However, differently from much of what we find elsewhere, here they zero in on the consummation of that kingdom, the end of this age, the fulfillment of God’s purposes.  

Just hours prior to his arrest, Jesus told these vivid stories to reassure his disciples that there is something more lasting than the carelessness of some of the brides, the timidity of most investors, and the oblivion of the nations. The God of whom Jesus spoke and of whom he ultimately embodies is relentless. Not even the deafening hatred and brutality that was about to be unleashed over Jesus would be capable of permanently silencing God’s resounding Word. Dr. Martin Luther King expressed that conviction very vividly in one of his sermons when he said:

"Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'"


Even as events much beyond our control take place, Jesus continues to walk among the persistence of children who hunger, the determination of foreign women, the fortitude of the imprisoned man, and the fierceness of the ailing elderly. He still confounds us by declaring “blessed” those that hunger and thirst, those that yearn for justice, and the ones that suffer persecution because of him. It is by sharing our lives with people that experience rejection that we often are taken aback by welcoming embraces. Taking up the shame of the cross, we surprisingly begin to see ourselves as blessed. It is amid tears we often discover what joy can be.

As an anticipated groom that suddenly arrives, an investor that expects much of his servants, and a wise shepherd that will not be fooled, our King makes his people share in glorious hope, one that goes far beyond what we can only begin to grasp. Thank you for joining us in making this Lent one that draws us nearer to that blessed day. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again!
CHAPTER
4
Contributors
Performers

Megan Kenyon


Brianna Kinsman
Brianna Kinsman
Ivan Wong
Ivan Wong
Joy Ike
Joy Ike
September Penn
September Penn
Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.
The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."
Musicians

Megan Kenyon


No items found.
Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.
The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."
Visual Artists

Megan Kenyon


Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.
The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."
Writers

Megan Kenyon


Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.
The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."
Hosts

Megan Kenyon


Oh, to be foolishly in love. So captured by the rapturous thrill of it all that all else fades away. Enlivened by a melody within, whimsically dancing about like wonder and awe materialized.
The text tells us of ten brides-to-be, on their way to meet their Beloveds. Each grabbing a lamp to light the way. As if love-enough couldn’t lead them. But either in haste or in hubris, five neglected the oil. And so, we are told, foolish they are. But foolish we already knew. For only fools fall in love. So what then of this foolishness? What was the foolishness of their wayward ways?



Perhaps the foolishness was not their forgetfulness. Nor ignorance. But rather, their arrogance. The human-held conviction that our foolish love could be sustained by our fickle hearts. Oh, how our hearts are strong: big, bold, and brave. But our full-bodied, emboldened courage comes with slivers of such tender vulnerability. And so these hearts — the big, bold, and brave ones — they also bend and bruise and break.

We are foolish to believe we survive on the strength of our hearts alone. For we are sustained only by oil from above. Oil poured upon. Oil in us that is not of us. Oil that recognizes an utter, desperate dependence upon God’s extravagant provision.

The oil is God’s to give. If but only we come to the end of ourselves, and simply ask. May we learn, even and especially in our foolishness, simply to ask for the oil.

“Oh God, our hearts cannot survive without what you give. May we aim not to be both our own blood and water in this body and flesh. But instead, in our veins, may we learn to see you as our source of life.

Give us your oil, oh God. So we may pour our our hearts with your life. Beloveds and Brides. Learners and fools. Fools for your love. Fools filled by your love. Fools pouring out your love. Fools aflame."
Preparing

February 17 | Ash Wednesday

Matthew 25: 1

Art: Megan Kenyon
Reflection: Dea Jenkins
There was a time when the thought of death would send my stomach into a tight ball of nerves, icy fear slithering its way up and down my spine. As a child I used to lay awake at night fearful of what would happen should I pass away. It was not so much the physical act of dying that scared me. Instead, I feared that in place of the glorious peace promised throughout scripture for all who enter the heavenly Kingdom of GOD post earthly intermission would be nothingness. I feared that my lifeforce would dwindle into a state of nonexistence. The threat of having no consciousness of my own state of being petrified me the most. Not only would I physically cease to be, but I would not even be aware that I had passed from life and into a void of nihility.

Precocious childhood thoughts aside, it is this reality of consciousness that I find most intriguing when reading Matthew 25. In this passage there seems to be a forceful push by way of the narrator, Jesus Himself, to awaken His captive audience to the need to be more fully conscious - that is, to be more fully aware and vigilant. If one is conscious of something, does not that consciousness denote a degree of responsibility? Jesus seems to believe so.

At the start of Matthew 25, the ten virgins are united in their sameness of cause and interest. This hub of consciousness leading them to all seek the same end does not presuppose that they are all wise enough to prepare for the journey ahead. Though they begin in the same place, what will be their story once the bridegroom arrives? In like manner, though we are all sharing this earthly real estate at the moment, what will be our story once Jesus returns? Do our lives heed the warnings to be more vigilant, wise, and prepared - that is, to fully live into the call of consciousness once we are born? Are we prepared enough to fully withstand the pitfalls of sleepwalking through life?
Practice: Scripture to Song

In Megan Kenyon’s piece “Listen and Lament,” the artist quotes Marvin Gaye’s song, “Inner City Blues”. In this practice, challenge yourself by writing a chorus or verse to Matthew 25.

1 | Write out or type Matthew 25. (Suggestion: start with just a section of Matthew 25, perhaps just using Matthew 25: 1-13 for this practice.)
2 | Highlight any words or phrases that stand out to you.
3 | Delete any words or phrases that aren’t highlighted.
4 | Take the remaining words/phrases and rearrange them into a poem.
5 | Create a melody for your poem.
6 | Repeat the process using other parts of Matthew 25 to create your song.

* You can also replace the parable of the ten virgins with your own story that embodies the themes of preparation and awareness.
Foreseeing

February 18

Matthew 25: 2

Practice:
Reflection: Mike Harbert
One of the things I struggle with is practicing foresight when I believe certain things "must be done." Even when I’ve prayed about it, once I get MY sights on what appears to be the right thing, look out! Sadly the end often becomes more important than the means and true love goes out the window.

Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins speaks to this struggle: “Five of (ten virgins) were foolish and five were wise” (Matthew 25:2). Why were five foolish? They did something without practicing “foresight.” Why were five wise? They practiced “foresight.”

Foreseeing requires getting beyond our natural compulsions that often mislead us. Instead of simply taking action based upon what we believe is right in the moment, we must take steps to allow God to speak to us about what is truly right and best before taking action. For me this means slowing down, taking a deep breath and practicing these steps:

1) Honestly getting in touch with what I believe is right and needed in the moment
2) Sitting quietly, listening for God’s perspective about is right and needed
3) Asking a trusted and godly friend their perspective about what is right and needed
4) Making sure what I believe is right and needed is in line with scripture
5) Honestly discerning if there is true peace in my soul before taking action.
If what I feel is right and needed “must be done” before I practice these five things, most likely what I believe is right and needed is not. Yet when I take these five steps before taking action, I avoid falling into compulsions that mislead me and hurt others.

This Lent, I encourage you to take time to prayerfully consider whether you need more of this kind of foresight in your life. What might this look like and what will this require? What simple, intentional and incremental adjustments are needed (each day) to allow this way of living to become more your actual reality?

Grace & Peace,Mike Harbert
Providing

February 20

Matthew 25: 4

Practice:
Reflection: Judith Hirsch-Fikejs
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through” so goes the old southern Gospel hymn. Human existence is often characterized as a journey, even in secular literature. Scripture refers to the Christian life as journeying toward God's heavenly kingdom. For now, we are mired in this temporal world, and as transient as our earthly sojourn may be, believers are called live as God's Kingdom people now. The contrast between the Wise and Foolish maidens who go out to meet the Bridegroom is a case in point. In this single statement found in Matt. 25:4, we encounter individuals who know what is required of them. The Wise Maidens were prepared. They left nothing to chance. They not only filled their lamps with oil but were prepared to buy more if necessary.

Oil has long been seen as a metaphor for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are indeed marked with the sign of God's Spirit in Baptism. But what of daily living? Can we prepare, be ready, be looking ahead each day, allowing God's Spirit to awaken us, to be our inner power source?  The spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-examination, confession, goal setting can be powerful aids. We can view each new day as another occasion of learning and serving, allowing God's Spirit to shine into our workplace, homes, schools, among friends and family.
Perhaps each of us can spend time daily considering how we can be “filled with the Spirit” as we honor our Lord, preparing to meet him as the Resurrected One..
Waiting

February 21

Matthew 25: 5

Art: Jess Velarde
Reflection: Rachel Coleman



W
hat does it mean, to wait? What changes this act from simple passivity into an intentional activity? I wonder if it is not perhaps some future event one holds in one’s mind. All of the maidens wait for the bridegroom and their energy is focused on his arrival, though they know not exactly when that will be. And all of the maidens recognize the bridegroom when he does finally arrive—even those who were unprepared.

It seems then that waiting and recognition are tied together somehow. In thinking of what is to come, what may look like a period of stillness is transformed into an act of moving toward something, if only interiorly, an activity that in fact involved our whole being. Perhaps we may say it this way: waiting is the moment of recognition extended through time.
It seems then that waiting and recognition are tied together somehow. In thinking of what is to come, what may look like a period of stillness is transformed into an act of moving toward something, if only interiorly, an activity that in fact involved our whole being. Perhaps we may say it this way: waiting is the moment of recognition extended through time.

“*Behold* the bridegroom!” All of the maidens were waiting for him, all of the maidens recognized him upon his arrival. What then separates the foolish from the wise? Might we say that the difference lies in how completely the maidens let the act of recognition transform their period of seeming stillness, transform this interiority? The foolish know the bridegroom, but do not let this recognition affect their whole selves. The wise let it in- and transform all their other activities, so that their waiting truly becomes an act of their whole being. Their waiting becomes, ultimately, an offering.
Beholding

February 22

Matthew 25: 6

Art: K. McFarland
Reflection:
Munich’s year-round open-air  farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market.
Anticipating

February 23

Matthew 25: 7

Practice:
Reflection: Gretchen Saalbach
Matthew 25:7 gives us a picture of anticipation that’s linked with preparation – get ready because the bridegroom is coming! But there’s been a long delay until finally a voice cries out “He’s coming!” and the bridesmaids get their lamps ready.Anticipation can be fun and exciting, and we turn that excitement into action. We do what we can to prepare so that we’re ready when the moment we hope for finally arrives.But if there’s a delay, a significant delay to the point that you’re not even sure that thing is going to happen, then that fun and excitement can become so many other things, like anger, disappointment, and apathy. We go back to life as usual and maybe wait for something to happen but not with any sense of expectation that causes us to make room in our lives for that thing. Sometimes going back to life as normal is okay, because what we hoped for just won’t happen. But the danger is that’s not always the case. Sometimes we do have to continue to wait with a sense of preparation, because that hoped-for thing will happen but we will miss it if we aren’t ready for it. Making room for God in our lives is like that. We can have great experiences with God when we first start walking with Him, but over time life normalizes and we no longer feel the need to be so into reading the bible or praying or other spiritual practices. The problem is, though, if we aren’t making space for God continuously, we will miss out altogether on the opportunity for Him to come again and do amazing things in us and through us. While we don’t know when God will show up in our lives in a life-changing way, let’s choose to make space in our lives for Him to come whenever He chooses, and live in anticipation that He will come, and the wait will be worth it.
Discerning

February 24

Matthew 25: 8

Practice:
Reflection: Al Han
Ihad the honor of officiating a wedding of a young couple in my church plant recently. Due to Covid, the wedding was very intimate… less than 30 people in attendance. However, the bride and groom were able to have a full bridal party with four bridesmaids and four groomsmen. The couple informed me ahead of time that two of the bridesmaids would be performing a special song during the ceremony. I reached out to these two bridesmaids prior to the wedding asking them to practice before the dress rehearsal of the wedding, to which they strongly agreed. On the day of the dress rehearsal, however, it was obvious to everyone that the two bridesmaids had not prepared or practiced whatsoever. As I was going through the Order of Ceremony with the engaged couple, the bridal party, and the family members involved, these two bridesmaids were off to the side of the altar playing the piano and singing the song as if it were their first time. They wasted everyone’s valuable time during the dress rehearsal. Sadly, the two bridesmaids’ lack of preparation was an unfortunate distraction and an unnecessary delay to the larger event that was happening, which was the wedding.
The “virgins” in Matthew 25 are akin to the “bridesmaids” in today’s context. In a traditional first century Jewish wedding, it was customary for several close friends of the bride, typically ten virgins, to escort the groom to his newlywed bride after the wedding ceremony. Since ancient lamps required oil to stay lit, the extra supply of oil was a wise form of preparation. So when the five bridesmaids who ran out of oil asked the bridesmaids who had extra oil to give them some, it would have actually been unwise to do so as all of them run the risk of running out of oil leaving nobody to be able to escort the bridegroom to his bride.
So much of growing in faith is about preparation, being wise, and discerning.
reasoning

February 25

Matthew 25: 9

Practice:
Reflection: Nick Warnes
"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through” so goes the old southern Gospel hymn. Human existence is often characterized as a journey, even in secular literature. Scripture refers to the Christian life as journeying toward God's heavenly kingdom. For now, we are mired in this temporal world, and as transient as our earthly sojourn may be, believers are called live as God's Kingdom people now. The contrast between the Wise and Foolish maidens who go out to meet the Bridegroom is a case in point. In this single statement found in Matt. 25:4, we encounter individuals who know what is required of them. The Wise Maidens were prepared. They left nothing to chance. They not only filled their lamps with oil but were prepared to buy more if necessary.

Oil has long been seen as a metaphor for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are indeed marked with the sign of God's Spirit in Baptism. But what of daily living? Can we prepare, be ready, be looking ahead each day, allowing God's Spirit to awaken us, to be our inner power source?  The spiritual disciplines of prayer, self-examination, confession, goal setting can be powerful aids. We can view each new day as another occasion of learning and serving, allowing God's Spirit to shine into our workplace, homes, schools, among friends and family.
Perhaps each of us can spend time daily considering how we can be “filled with the Spirit” as we honor our Lord, preparing to meet him as the Resurrected One..
Consumating

February 26

Matthew 25: 10

Art:
Reflection: Dea Jenkins



W
hat does it mean, to wait? What changes this act from simple passivity into an intentional activity? I wonder if it is not perhaps some future event one holds in one’s mind. All of the maidens wait for the bridegroom and their energy is focused on his arrival, though they know not exactly when that will be. And all of the maidens recognize the bridegroom when he does finally arrive—even those who were unprepared.

It seems then that waiting and recognition are tied together somehow. In thinking of what is to come, what may look like a period of stillness is transformed into an act of moving toward something, if only interiorly, an activity that in fact involved our whole being. Perhaps we may say it this way: waiting is the moment of recognition extended through time.
It seems then that waiting and recognition are tied together somehow. In thinking of what is to come, what may look like a period of stillness is transformed into an act of moving toward something, if only interiorly, an activity that in fact involved our whole being. Perhaps we may say it this way: waiting is the moment of recognition extended through time.

“*Behold* the bridegroom!” All of the maidens were waiting for him, all of the maidens recognized him upon his arrival. What then separates the foolish from the wise? Might we say that the difference lies in how completely the maidens let the act of recognition transform their period of seeming stillness, transform this interiority? The foolish know the bridegroom, but do not let this recognition affect their whole selves. The wise let it in- and transform all their other activities, so that their waiting truly becomes an act of their whole being. Their waiting becomes, ultimately, an offering.
PErsevering

February 27

Matthew 25: 11

Movement: Brianna Kinsman
Reflection:
Munich’s year-round open-air  farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market.
Denying

February 28

Matthew 25: 12

Practice:
Reflection: Al Han
In high school, people would often confuse me for my little brother and vice versa. It’s an honest mistake because he and I were only one year apart in age, similar in size, and we even shared clothes sometimes. Usually if one of my brother’s friends would approach me and call me by his name, they’d realize almost immediately that they made a mixup, apologize, then move on. However, on one occasion in high school, a girl in his grade ran up to me excitedly, grabbed my arm, and started rambling on about a mutual friend of hers and my little brother. She was talking so fast and so loud that I wasn’t even able to interrupt her to tell her I’m not my brother. After what felt like five straight minutes, I nearly yelled at her, “I don’t know you!” There was an awkward pause of the two of us looking into each others’ eyes, she became flushed with embarrassment then replied, “Oh my God! I thought you were your brother! I’m so sorry!” She ran off sheepishly and I walked away slightly vexed.
Learning

March 1

Matthew 25: 13

Art: Julia Hendrickson
Reflection: Gretchen Saalbach
Ibroke my elbow at the end of April, 2020, and it’s been a long road of recovery involving two surgeries and a lot of physical therapy. I still can’t fully stretch out my arm, or rotate my forearm back and forth, so I’m doing a number of exercises designed to help me stretch and bend my arm, and work on strength and flexibility.At first it was easy to see what improvements I had made. But I’m now at the point of recovery where any gains I make are hard to notice because they are small improvements rather than the bigger improvements that happened earlier in my recovery. I observe them through sudden shifts in what I can do,. I’m grateful to my therapists; because of their abilities, they can see what I can’t. They see what is going on with the structures and tissues of my arm and take me through activities that will help with scar tissue and stiffness. They ask me about pain levels and any changes I’ve seen, and work with me to make sure that the day of recovery will happen. We’re told in this passage to keep watch because we don’t know when Jesus will return. Keeping watch means to observe what is happening, and to respond in a way that foreshadows the truth of God’s kingdom. We make room in our lives for God to speak to us and to empower us so that we can be His hands and feet. We do this with others – this is a multigenerational, multiethnic, multigendered work - because we each have limits on what any one of us can see and know, and we need everyone’s input and encouragement so that we can fully reflect the fullness of God and what He wants for us as humans. We celebrate together the ways God’s love and goodness breaks into our lives and the world around us. Let’s ask God to help us be alert to where He’s at work, and partner with Him to see His kingdom come.
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