Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

How to keep on living the good and beautiful lifeBy Jim Somerville.

During the Season of Lent, the members and friends of Richmond’s First Baptist Church studied a book called The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith. Some of them met in homes, some in Sunday school classes, some came to the Journey to the Cross services, and some did all of the above.  It was a powerful community-building exercise, and I think we all learned a great deal.

So, now what?

The original plan was this: that we would spend the Season of Lent learning about the Good and Beautiful Life, that we would spend the Season of Easter living the Good and Beautiful Life, and then spend the Season of Pentecost sharing the Good and Beautiful Life.

Learning, living, sharing.  Got it?

According to that plan we are now in the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season (April 5 through May 23), the season of living the life.  But how do we do that?  Or, rather, how do we keep on doing it?

Here’s one suggestion:

The Good and Beautiful Life is essentially a study of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  James Bryan Smith’s premise is that in these chapters Jesus explains what life in God’s kingdom looks like and what it would take to live it.  The life of the kingdom is the good and beautiful life, Smith argues, and if we could learn to do what Jesus says we would know that.

So, try this.

In the remainder of this season, all the way up to May 24, the Day of Pentecost, try reading the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of daily devotion.  If you’re reading this on your computer, you can simply click HERE and go to a page that has the whole sermon waiting for you in the New Revised Standard Version.  Click that same link tomorrow and try reading it in a different version, the Message, or the NIV.  Maybe you could read a different version every day, just to keep it fresh.

My hope is this: that if you saturate yourself in that sermon, if you sink down into its message day after day, you will begin to live the life it describes.  You will trust God more.  You will hate others less.  You will pluck up the seed of sin before it can take root.  You will know that you are blessed.  You will be like the one who built his house on a rock.

Try it!  Live it!  And then get ready to share it.

A life like this will be too good and beautiful to keep to yourself.

 This post originally appeared in JimsBlog, the Pastor’s blog, on April 13, 2015.

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Story by Jim Somerville. Photo by Sean Lumsden-Cook.

For years I’ve been looking for a way to harmonize the good news of the coming Kingdom, so prevalent in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with the good news of eternal life, so prevalent in John. I think I’ve found it, and if I could sum it up in a few words, I think I would say this:

Jesus came to give us the gift of LIFE – abundant, overflowing, and everlasting – and His vision of the Kingdom was about the place, the reality, where that kind of life could be lived.

book studyIn 2015 I’m hoping that we can learn how to live that sort of life here, at First Baptist, by thinking of our church as a kind of “laboratory” where we practice obeying the clear commands of Christ to see what can happen when we truly love one another, forgive one another, and bear one another’s burdens (just to name a few). Jesus seemed to believe that God’s Kingdom could come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Why not start here?

And then I want us to learn how to share that kind of life out there, in the city of Richmond and in all its surrounding suburbs. I think this may be the most natural way of bringing the KOH2RVA – simply by living the life of the Kingdom and sharing that life with others. And yet I don’t think it comes naturally; I think it takes study and practice.

GBL-shadowTo that end we’re going to spend the Season of Lent studying a book called The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith (based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7). During the “Great Fifty Days” of the Easter Season, we’re going to practice living that life here at First Baptist. And from the Day of Pentecost forward, we’re going to focus on sharing that life with our city, our state, our nation, and our world.

So, get ready, First Baptist Church: the Good and Beautiful Life is coming, and I want every one of us to be part of it!

For more information, visit FBCRichmond.org/worship/jtc.
Watch a brief video about the lenten book study.

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By Susan Beach.

If your spiritual life is a bit dry, or even non-existent, this Lenten season might be the time to try some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. There are a variety of disciplines because each of us is different, and because at various times, each of us is in a different place. Perhaps one will be just what brings new life to your spiritual journey. Because new life is what Lent leads to.

Each week, beginning on Ash Wednesday, one discipline is introduced. Try each one, even if it’s not familiar – allow God to connect with you in a new way. Adjust it as needed – remember that it is a tool. The point is to grow closer to God. If it doesn’t work for you, change it until it does. For each discipline there is a practical example of how to live out what you’ve learned in your journey with God. Try it or one of your own creation. At the end of each section is a resource for you to use if you are interested in learning more.

Beginning Wednesday, March 9, Ash Wednesday
He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. (
Matthew 14:23, NIV)

Silence, solitude, and listening to God have worked together as part of Christian practice since the third century when the desert fathers and mothers chose lives distinctly separate.

Pick a verse that is meaningful to you, find a place where you will be undisturbed, quiet yourself by breathing slowly, say the verse to yourself several times, then quietly allow God’s presence into your space. When you are distracted, repeat the verse and again quietly await God’s presence.

Live it out: You may want to share with someone or write in a journal what you experienced. You may also draw, dance, or give a gift to someone as your response to God’s presence.

Resource:  www.centeringprayer.com/centering_prayer

Beginning Wednesday, March 16
When you fast, do not look somber. (
Matthew 6:16a, NIV)

For Christians, fasting has a long tradition from the Old Testament patriarchs to New Testament examples. While some churches have an established time and type of fasting, the discipline can be practiced in private by anyone at any time as a personal commitment. In a fast, the believer chooses to do without something that is hard to give up, something that might be interfering with getting closer to God.

Often we think of fasting from food. If you choose this kind of fast, you can give up one meal a day, or eat smaller portions, or give up a specific food. You can fast from reading the newspaper, knitting, serving on committees – anything done so much that it takes away from time with God, that interferes with your hearing Him speak to you.

Live it out: Allow a food fast to remind you of those who are hungry not by choice. Bring a bag of groceries to FBC’s Food Pantry. Let other fasts prompt appropriate responses; if you can’t think of one, ask a friend for suggestions.

Resource: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Beginning Wednesday, March 23
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. (
Deuteronomy 31:8a, NIV)

A prayer labyrinth is a tool for meditation, prayer and connecting with God. Unlike a maze there is only one path to the center; there are no dead ends. The point is to help you focus on your spiritual journey.

It is a physical experience, so pay attention to your pace, what you hear and see, who you encounter. You can pray for a special concern, meditate on a scripture passage, listen to what God is saying to you. You can stop at any point or spend time in the center.

Live it out: Use the labyrinth at 3351 Loxley Road in the Sherwood Park neighborhood of Richmond. Or use the link below to a finger labyrinth that you can print and use anywhere.

Resource: http://zdi1.zd-cms.com/cms/res/files/382/ChartresLabyrinth.pdf

Beginning Wednesday, March 30
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve. (
Matthew 20:28a, NIV)

Sometimes the walk out from the center of a labyrinth becomes a journey to service. God is at all times calling us to serve Him by serving others. From the Old Testament’s question of “what do I require of you” to Jesus’ taking up the towel and bowl of water, we know He intends for us to show who He is by how we behave towards others.

Service is part of every believer’s life; it is not just for those who commit their entire lives to service in His name. Find direction from Brother Lawrence: “We must not grow weary of doing little things for the love of God, who looks not on the great size of the work, but on the love in it.”

Live it out: Find time today to do some little thing for someone you don’t know. Tomorrow do something for which you get no recognition. As you approach your regular work this week (whether it is doing the laundry or writing an important paper), do it as an offering to God.

Resource: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

Beginning Wednesday, April 6
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you … On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. (
Psalm 63:1a, 6, NIV)

The divine offices are the practice of praying specific prayers at specific hours of the day.

Before you get out of bed, begin the day by praising God for who He is in your life – creator, shepherd, parent, teacher, champion, protector, healer…

In the middle of the afternoon, before the concerns of home take over, pray for those you work with or those who serve your meals, fix your car, deliver your mail.

As you get into bed, reflect on the day and thank God for His protection throughout and for how He used you to do His work.

Live it out: Perhaps a thank-you is in order for one of those you’ve prayed for during the afternoon. But before you express that, make a list of all the things you are grateful for about this person. Think of small and specific things, so that when you say thank you, it is received as genuine.

Resource: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

Beginning Wednesday, April 13
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (
Exodus 20: 8, NIV)

The creation story begins with the keeping of the Sabbath. God kept it and expected His created beings to keep it. His intention was to give us a day of rest and restoration; part of that rest and restoration comes from knowing who He is. For Christians, the Sabbath is also a time of celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, of the life that is to come.

Plan how to turn this Sunday into a time of keeping the Sabbath. It’s not about rules that keep you from doing things. It is about setting aside this day, making it different from the rest of the week, so that you start the next week refreshed spiritually, mentally and physically. Begin by acknowledging who God is through worship. If you don’t always have time for a relaxed family meal, make Sunday dinner special – something everyone likes, with enough time to enjoy each mouthful, and hear from everyone present. Or plan a meal for a friend, keeping it simple and allowing for a relaxed time to catch up. If you’re inside at a desk most days, make time for a walk outside. Include time for rest. If reading or listening to music is a rare treat, include that in the day. End the Sabbath with scripture – something like Psalm 98 to celebrate the day God has given you.

Live it out: Commit to making one Sunday a month a true Sabbath for you and all your household.

Resource: http://www.jewfaq.org/shabbat.htm

Holy Week, April 17-24

Sunday, April 17, Palm Sunday

Meditate on Luke 19:28-44 several times today. Imagine the scene – the sights, smells, sounds. Watch Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem; listen to His words. Now imagine He turns to you and says “Have you found peace?”

Wednesday, April 20

A contemplative service led by Robert Dilday.

Thursday, April 21, Maundy Thursday

Walk through your neighborhood today or through the halls where you work. Pray for everyone you see, for those you know and those you don’t know.

Friday, April 22, Good Friday

Spend your lunch break in the quiet of the sanctuary at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1925 Grove Avenue, at noon. Remember that “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.” (Matthew 27:45, NIV)

Saturday, April 23, Holy Saturday

Set spiritual goals for yourself: Choose one of the disciplines that worked best for you during Lent and one that was a challenge. Commit to doing the former one once a month and the latter once a year.

Sunday, April 24, Easter

As you plan your Easter Sunday, include whatever will make it a true Sabbath celebration.


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By Jim Somerville.

“Why did Jesus have to die?”

People often ask me that question, and although there are some important theological answers, there are also some political answers. The most obvious one is that the Roman government condemned Him to death because they saw Him as a threat.

Do you remember how the Jewish religious authorities brought Him before Pilate saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king” (Luke 23:2, NRSV)? They were accusing Him of insurrection, of “rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against an established government.” They were hoping that the Roman government would do away with Him largely because they, themselves, saw Him as a threat.

When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and “the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice,” some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop”, but Jesus said, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Luke 19:37, 39-40, NRSV). In another Gospel the Pharisees admit, grudgingly, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:19, NRSV)

It’s that kind of thing that forces them to take action, that sense that things are getting out of hand, that the world is going after Jesus, that they are powerless to stop Him. The religious authorities enjoyed a certain amount of privilege because of their position, but if everybody began to look to Jesus for answers instead of to them, if they began to believe that He really was God’s anointed one—the Messiah—then all that would change.

Something had to be done…

On this year’s Journey to the Cross we will take a look at the “Principalities and Powers” that aligned themselves against Jesus when He came to Jerusalem, the earthly and unearthly forces so desperate to keep Him from establishing the Kingdom of Heaven. As we do, we will ask ourselves the question: “In what ways do we refuse to yield our own small power, and prevent Jesus from establishing the Kingdom within us?”

Join us as we enter a 40-day season of study, introspection and prayer, working our way through Matthew 21-23 as we journey with Jesus to the cross.

Journey to the Cross & Holy Week:

March 9, Ash Wednesday: Matthew 21:12-17: the cleansing of the temple. Jesus was angry that His father’s house had been turned into a den of robbers. The chief priests and scribes became angry with Jesus “when they saw the amazing things that he did.”

March 16, Journey I: Matthew 21:18-32: Jesus curses the fig tree, the authority of Jesus questioned, the parable of the two sons. Here Jesus shows His disappointment with a “fruitless” Israel, led by religious authorities who have not done what they told God they would do.

March 23, Journey II: Matthew 21:33-46: the parable of the wicked tenants. “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.”

March 30, Journey III: Matthew 22:1-14: the parable of the wedding banquet. Those who had been invited to the banquet (the religious authorities?) did not come. Those who “crashed” God’s party (the same?) are thrown into the outer darkness.

April 6, Journey IV: Matthew 22:15-40: three questions meant to trip Jesus up: the question about paying taxes, the question about the resurrection, and the question about the greatest commandment. “After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

April 13, Journey V: Matthew 23 (selected verses). Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees and ends his rant by saying, “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (setting us up for Palm Sunday).

April 17 – Palm Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

April 20 – Contemplative service

April 21 – Maundy Thursday service – Lynn Turner, preaching

April 22 – Good Friday service, noon, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Jim Somerville, preaching

April 23 – Holy Saturday service & candlelight baptism service, 8 pm – Pastor Emeritus Dr. James Flamming, preaching

April 24 – Easter Sunday worship services at 8:30 & 11 a.m. – Jim Somerville, preaching

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