Lenten Devotional Two

Follow the Light

by Melissa Cheng, Faith UMC Member

In the painting, The Incredulity of Thomas, Caravaggio used the technique of tenebrism - the sharp contrast of dark and light - to illuminate Jesus to a point where it seems as if he is radiating light. Behind him, the background goes starkly black, just as the rest of the world seems to fade away when placed by the bright light of Jesus. His light falls upon Thomas, who we can all see a bit ourselves in. Thomas's face conveys the astonishment of standing next to the risen Christ - the wide eyes of freshly eradicated doubt, the wrinkled forehead of surprise at beholding a fulfilled promise, and the gently pursed lips of overwhelm from being invited to touch the undeserved proof of love itself. Yet Jesus does not look at Thomas with a reproachful expression, but with gentleness, as he, and all of us, are welcomed and bathed in a light that lays bare and saves simultaneously. He invites us gently, but urgently, to repent and follow him.

It is this all-encompassing light which Wendell Berry describes in A World Lost. In it, he imagines people walking, "...into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed...Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light's awful clarity, in seeing themselves in it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be.”

Let us journey though Lent in the "shadowless light" Berry speaks of, so we can see ourselves clearly, repent and let Jesus's light heal and refine us. And just as Caravaggio used the dark background to illuminate Jesus, let us also black out the calls of the world and within ourselves that lead us away from Christ, so we can see him radiantly and completely.

Let us examine ourselves.

Let us repent.

Let us follow the light. 

Lenten Devotional One

Giving Up

by Lisa Holmes

Verse: Psalm 46:10

“Be still, and know that I am God!

    I am exalted among the nations,

    I am exalted in the earth.”

Giving up something for Lent is a practice many Christian denominations observe. I tend to think of giving up as being the same as letting go of something. The reality of giving up, or letting go of something can be a really difficulty choice. 

Sometimes when we give up on something, we open up our lives to the possibility of what God has for us. 

When I was younger, I always thought that we gave up something during Lent as a symbolic thing because Christ gave up His life for us. 

As an adult, I find myself thinking about when we give up TV or social media or even chocolate. I think about how we might be removing something that distracts us, and that could open the opportunity for God to bless us in new ways. 

In Psalm 46:10, God tells us to “be still, and know I am God.” When I was in my early 20s, I was sitting on a beach in California with a couple of my cousins just as the sun was setting. They were talking about something, and I was just watching the ebb and flow of the ocean. I had a number of things that had been weighing heavily on my heart. Not just for a moment, but for a couple of years by then. There were things I prayed about daily, but that never seemed to change in the way they weighed upon my spirit. I was at a point where I didn’t totally know how to handle them anymore. 

In that moment watching the ocean, I suddenly thought, if God can control the tides, what in the world makes me think He can’t handle what I’m fretting over? It was the first time in my life that I understood what it meant to “be still and know”. The first time I learned how to let go of something and open myself up to what He had instead. 

Maybe whatever you choose to give up for Lent this year will open wide the floodgates to something beautiful God has to fill that space.