A New Season of Lent

March 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week begins the season of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter where we, as Christ followers, fast/sacrifice in some way to experience wilderness as Christ experienced wilderness. Most years, I consider something to sacrifice for the 40 days (food, coffee, tv, etc.) and spend more intentional time with Jesus in prayer. This year, however, as I meditate on Isaiah 58, I’m thinking upon how I can give my life as a sacrifice. In Isaiah 58, God calls us out and expresses a true fast:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
What if we engaged in a season of Lent by offering ours lives as a sacrifice instead of considering what we might sacrifice? What if we were to engage in tangibly serving widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners? God promises that as we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, we will be awakened to the life and light of God. We will call upon His name and He will answer us! Light will shine in darkness!

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

In His Grace,

Pastor Bobby

The Heart Work of Easter

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s pulse comes from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

As this season of Lent is drawing to a close, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The past six weeks have, at times, both dragged on and raced forward.

This week before Easter Sunday (also known as Passion or Holy Week), I find myself inching closer and closer to breaking my Lenten fasts and indulging in some pastel egg-shaped candy in the days to come. As this season draws to a close, my eyes are on the celebration of new life: or, in other words, getting back to my everyday life and habits. The weeks of suffering in fasting and mourning are ending, and I’m ready for things to be normal again.

I was reflecting on this today as I found myself in the car driving through the North Bay today. Taking from Pastor Bobby’s blog post a while back about being in a posture of listening, I decided to turn off my usual driving music and sit silently in my thoughts for a while, looking back on this season of fasting and Lent.

And here are some of my honest reflections:

– I’m still not great at fasting. My self-discipline really needs some work.

– I’m really glad Lent’s coming to an end.

– The church Easter choir on Sunday is going to be awesome!!!

– I’m not sure I’m any different now than I was at the start of Lent.

In the quiet of the car I had to face a hard realization… that I want my “suffering” to be in a neat little package and to come with some awesome outcomes that make the hard parts worth it. I want my sacrifices and struggling (even something as little as giving up coffee) to mean something. I want something to show for it. I want to give myself a pat on the back and endless celebratory cups of coffee to commemorate that I’ve done it. Despite everything, I still just want and focus on the benefits of new life without being fully present in the suffering. More than I care to admit, I’m ready to live back in my normal reality where I have freedom and new life. Suffering and fasting is just too hard.

Especially in this last week of Lent where Jesus lived his final week, it’s tempting to get ready for the Sunday celebration instead of staying present with the richness of His suffering and passion, which comes to a head this week. The depth of the suffering and passion paves the way for the depth and meaning of crucifixion and subsequent new life. Those two aspects – the crucifixion and the resurrection – simply cannot be unlinked.

Suffering is simply that– suffering. It’s hard! We people are pain adverse. A big part of entering into suffering is holding myself there in that hard place; that is half the battle for me. We have the freedom to choose out of it, and ironically the same freedom that Jesus paid for is the same freedom and willpower we exercise when we choose into crucifixion alongside Him today. We have the choice. He’s inviting us into the depth of His faithfulness and power that remain through both the suffering and the rising. Do we have the courage to say yes and to engage more deeply this week, despite any hard realizations we may have about our weakness?



The Heart of Lent

February 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Pulse

This week’s Pulse is from Becky Luoh, Convergence Women’s Ministry Leader and Greek IV Director at Cal:

Today is a day I think back to the New Years’ resolutions I made just a short 2.5 months ago. Specifically this year I promised to read more books, eat daily vitamins, and be more generous with my time/money/things and words. I’m not the greatest at keeping up with personal resolutions (alas that 365 tablet vitamin bottle only has a few missing) so reminders here and there help.

Today marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days before Easter. Lent is yet another time of year where people give up certain things– TV, money spent on certain things, sweets, you name it. It’s always interesting and quite telling to hear what people are giving up… you find out a lot about a person through the things they resolve to do or to give up!

Every year in the days before Lent, I hem and haw about what to give up–and moan about how hard it’s going to be: TV (I couch potato way more than I care to admit out loud), coffee (it’s probably bad for me anyway), spending on unnecessary things (should probably try to keep saving instead of buying). I always count the cost of giving up things that are vices and guilty pleasures, but then get excited and motivated dreaming about the end of the 40 days where I’ll be more intellectual, less caffeine-dependent, and more financially stable.

But I realize that the problem with Lent in our culture today is that we are too caught up in the self-betterment, self-improvement mentality that comes with the opportunity to make a commitment. We’re a society obsessed with the idea of a new start, a new leaf, a chance to do better. New starts, leaves, and chances are not inherently bad things, but we lose the true meaning of Lent when we see it as merely another time to make our physical bodies and lives better. While there’s nothing wrong with giving up eating ice cream or drinking soda, it’s important to evaluate the true heart behind participating in Lent. Is it just for us to be better people with better living habits? Or are we giving up something in order to draw closer in intimacy with God, our ultimate source of life?

Fasting is the spiritual discipline where we forgo our usual things in order to place ourselves in a place of dependency, a state that helps us realize our need and hunger for God. In preparation for fasting I need to check myself: I need to align my heart back to the true meaning behind why we’re invited into this season. God’s inviting me to experience new life– not just a more improved physical life– but also a deeper more intimate understanding of God as my Father, and Jesus as my Savior, and Holy Spirit as my living breath.

And another thought I have about Lent is this– I know the traditional way is to fast and to give up something; but what if instead of subtracting we added something instead? What if we pressed ourselves more deeply into God’s presence by purposefully entering into a place where we truly need Him? This thought came to me as I think about the highly-publicized and hotly discussed Asian-themed fraternity party at Duke University that occurred a few weeks ago. As an Asian American, a sorority woman and someone who ministers to Greek students on the university campus, my heart broke in the wake of this incident as I found myself on both sides of the story, identifying with both oppressed and oppressor. I find myself needing God in how to process all of this. Oppressed, oppressor, bystander– no matter which side we find ourselves on, we need our Savior. This Lent I find myself on my knees, needing my Father who reconciles all people to Himself and to one another. This Lent in addition to fasting from TV and coffee and random spending, I’m committing to praying daily for racial reconciliation to happen in the Greek system on campuses across the nation. The larger conversation about how we relate to one another and make peace across differences is large and complex, but a good place to start as an individual is in prayer and intercession. Join me in this season of subtracting (and perhaps adding) to draw nearer to Jesus.