CALL AND RESPONSE:
ONE; We come, trusting in God's mercy and love, longing to know more about God's ways.
ALL: We come, to be guided in the ways of God's truth, to experience the joy of God's salvation.
ONE: We come, in the middle of our Lenten journey, aware of God's steadfast love helping us to Overcome the trials and temptations we constantly face
ALL: Lead us, 0 God, to do what is right in Your eyes and teach us to follow the humble way of Christ, Your Beloved Son, our crucified and risen Lord.
All knowing and all caring God, we gather this daydrained by another week. We are like a parched desert, empty and in need of replenishment. Visit us with Your Presence, saturate us with Your Spirit, and bathe us in Your streams of living water, that our lives might acknowledge and worship You to Your promise and honour.
Jesus, Lamb of God, when You walked this earth You did not consider Heavenly equality, though that was Yours to choose, but took the role of servant, and in humility and obedience allowed the rough nails of our sin to be hammered into Your flesh for the sake of salvation. Forgive those things we have done which have caused You sadness, and those things we should have done that would have brought You joy. Lord. Grant us simplicity of faith and a generosity of service that gives without counting the cost. Bring us back to that place where our journey began, when we said we would follow the way. You first trod. Lead us to the Cross and meet us there.
Dear Lord, whose promise is rock solid; we offer our lives and these signs of our daily living, not simply that bread might fill empty stomachs, but that, through the working of Your Holy Spirit, empty lives may be filled, friendless lonely lives find meaningful relationships and depressed lives given hope. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen
ONE PERSON'S GETHSEMANE By Nancy Campbell
We have entered the Lenten season both as a believing community and as followers of Christ. The Lent we observe is Christ centered and is a time of deepening our faith in Him. Lent is a time to listen to the voice of the conscience and to the whispering of the Spirit in the depth of our heart. Lent is a time to be oriented to God.
A Canadian, from Ontario, Catherine Fournier, is an author of short Christian stories. The following is one of her Lent and Easter series, called "I Will If I Have To, But Please Don't Ask Me."
It was a very ordinary early spring morning. The sun was shining, ice was beginning to melt off the roof, birds were beginning to sing again, but I was not having a good. For one thing, my son, Robert, was in the living room watching “Return of the Jedi” for 57th time. I thought I'd scream. .
I'd been in my office all searching for a manuscript. The only copy of a story now lost. I worried away the night about it and went through my morning routine with more than half my mind on the chaos of paper in the office. At 11:30, I finally admitted defeat and climbed into the shower. The phone rang. I thought about screaming.
It was my husband, Peter. His calling in the middle of the day had become unusual. His recent promotion to a managerial position and 2 business trips in the last month had swallowed up his free time, and much of our weekends, too. I missed the moment to moment contact that is so important between spouses, but we had carefully considered this promotion and were confident that the workload would reduce to manageable proportions within a year. Peter felt guilty enough being away from his family so much, I thought I shouldn't increase his guilt by saying that I found it difficult without him. I let him take care of himself and his workload, while I ran the house and took care of the family.
So, even though I was dripping wet with shampoo running down my face, I was glad he called. The background noises are unusual; I thought in the instant before he spoke, is he calling from a meeting I don't know about? HI, Cat, he said. Do you know where I am? His voice was curiously flat and hurt. Should I know where he is? I wondered. Was I supposed to meet him? No, you sound like you're in a lobby somewhere, what's up? I asked.
I'm at the hospital, he said, voice still flat and expressionless; they think I've had a heart attack.
A great ringing silence suddenly descended over some vital portion of my brain. The sun is shining, water is running down my back, Han Solo is yelling at Chewbacca, and my husband has jus told me the he may be near death. Don't sound upset; I think, he needs me not to be upset. Where are you? I asked, in the same seriously flat unemotional tone he used.
The Queensway Carleton. Look, I have to go now, he answered, with a slight quaver. The phone rattled, I heard the rustle of clothing, then a nurse's voice; Are you finished now, Mr Fournier? Can I help you back? And the phone line cut off. Now I am frightened.
My husband, no, my life, my world, who has always been so strong, capable and dependable, is suddenly so sick, he needs a nurse's help to get up from a chair. Be calm, cope, be calm, cope. No, I can't, I need help.
Who can I turn to?
I called a friend and shook and cried. She said she would drive out to Arnprior, and drive me to the hospital. I called another friend, shook and cried again. She offered to take the kids for as long as necessary. I called the school, managed not to cry, arranged for the kids to go to my friend’s home from home. Have I thought of everything? ..
No. I called my minister, shook and cried, blurted out what I was trying not to think, He can't die! He can't leave me now. I asked for prayers, and asked that the word be spread for prayers. What next?
Still dazed and numb, my mind moved so slowly. Moving automatically, I packed the children's pyjamas and clothes, dressed Robert, dressed myself. One thing at a time. I got into the car to drop Robert and Bags of clothes at my friend's house. I drove for a long time before my brain caught up with my body. Only then, did I think of praying myself. I began, automatically, Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy will be done…
Thy will be done, Lord? Even this? My life is in Your hands, Lord, and so is Peter's. I know that. No buts. I can't beg you to spare his life. If You want him now, I can't argue. Can you really ask me to live the rest of my life without Peter? Do You really think I can? I don't. God, I will if I have to, but please don't ask me to. Is this how Christ felt?
There are moments in everyone's life remembered forever with great clarity. I remember grasping the concept of reading, I remember the moment I knew I loved Peter, I remember the first step of my conversion when I recognized my own sinfulness, and I remember my 'Gethsemane Moment.' It seemed to be endless. In a sense, it is.
I was terrible afraid, afraid for myself, afraid for the children (I wouldn't raise them very well on my own), afraid Peter would die before I could get to him, that we wouldn't have a chance to say Goodbye, see you later. I wasn't afraid for Peter, there was nothing to be afraid of for him.
I was in incredible pain, the indescribable pain of heartbreak and loss. I could hardly breathe. This man had been part of my life since I was 15 years old, my friend, my mentor, my helpmate, my love. How could I go on with my heart and my right arm missing? I also felt ashamed. I have been so busy with the house, with the children, with feeling lonely and sorry for myself, that I hadn't seen anything wrong with Pater. How could I love him and not see this coming? How could I have neglected him and taken him for granted so? I just always thought he'd be there. Had Peter gotten sick because I had relied on him past his endurance? Had I made Peter the centre of my life instead of God? What a terrible burden to lay on him. Was this why God was taking him from me?
Yet, I was calm, calm that whatever happened was meant to happen, that whatever happened all I had to do was the next thing. Even if the next thing is .... ? In the years since my conversion to Christianity, God has taught me over and over again that my life is not in my control. Car accidents, children's illnesses, financial chaos, family problems, each time I have only found peacefulness when I handed over portions of my life into God's Hands. You want the kids? Well, they are Your children after all. OK God, I place my children in Your hands. You can see the whole picture, Lord, I can't. I'll trust that our money will turn out all right. But I always, even when I didn't realize that I was doing so, kept part of myself back. Out of fear, I guess, at what might happen if I let God make the decisions. Who knew what He might ask me to accept? This, for one thing.
I learned that day that control of your life is an illusion. What I thought of as control was a white knuckled grip on something too large for me to grasp. Only God's hands are strong enough to steer a safe course. Nothing and no one could always be there except God. Nothing and no one could take care of me and love me forever except God. Only at that moment, when I recognized the illusion of control I had been maintaining, the assumptions I had been making, could I finally and truly place all of my life, all of myself, all my hopes, prayers, plans, everything into God's hands, trusting His guidance and grace.
Before this Gethsemane moment, this moment of:
I will, Lord, if you ask it of me. But if you can, please don't ask me.
Yes, before the Gethsemane moment, trust of God seemed a perilous and risky thing. But at that moment of choice and surrender and since, I have found that trust III God and all He promises is the only certain thing in an uncertain life. I'm sure that everyone has such moments in their life. Maybe there are many moments in every life, or maybe every moment is the moment. It does seem to me though, that facing a moment of clear and unavoidable choice is inevitable. Life is so full of choices, mishap, adventure, love, or intellect will eventually lead us to the only real choice, to accept or reject the reality of God's Will in our life.
As you may have guessed, Peter didn't die. He hadn't had a heart attack after all. It was stress and overwork that caused the similar symptoms. It took nearly a year for his full recovery, a year of adjustment for both of us. We both needed to learn to admit that we couldn't do it all, to give up to the illusion of control and give our lives over to God. And to rely on each other-the spouse and the helpmate God had given us.
Lord, help us to keep our feet moving, our hands outstretched, and our hearts open to You. As we journey towards the Cross this Lenten season, keep us from temptation and help us to do Your Word in our world.