PMC Lenten Retreat Suggestions
Theme: Receiving and Extending God’s Grace
Opening Reflection from Joanna:
In a recent Facebook thread about how to handle music with remote worship, John Bergen, from Germantown Mennonite, said, “Emphasize grace.” That’s been my motto these last few weeks: emphasize grace. As we all figure out what “social isolation” means and how to make our lives work while we practice it, we need to be gracious with each other. As we learn new technology and connect with people in new ways, we need to be gracious with each other. As we live with uncertainty and fear and grief each day, we need to be gracious with each other. Emphasize grace.
Sometimes our feelings of disorientation, stress, and fear, can make it difficult to extend grace. Because being gracious takes a certain amount of emotional energy, which is in pretty short supply—at least for me–right now. Being gracious requires us to move beyond our own personal problems and feelings to recognize that others, too, are struggling. It can be hard to extend grace to others.
And, in my experience, what is often even more difficult than extending grace to others is extending grace to ourselves. Which is why we have titled this Lenten retreat “Receiving and Extending God’s Grace.” If we want to be able to extend grace to others, we have to first receive it for ourselves.
The Gospel story we heard in worship last week (John 4) provides a good example of Jesus extending grace—and the Samaritan woman receiving it. At first, Jesus’ statement to the woman seems more demand than grace: “Give me a drink.” But his willingness to speak to her at all is itself a grace. Jews were not supposed to even speak to Samaritans; and Jewish men were definitely not supposed to speak to Samaritan women; and Jewish rabbis were most definitely not supposed to speak to Samaritan adulterers. Jesus does not merely ask her for a drink, he goes on to engage this woman in an in-depth theological conversation—the longest recorded conversation in the Gospels. He doesn’t treat her as an adulterous Samaritan woman. He treats her as an equal. And this is grace.
The woman receives that grace and runs into town to share it with others: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” He had told her everything she had ever done, and still acted toward her with love and respect. That is grace. Her words to her community is gracious as well. She is not telling them what to believe or demanding to be heard. She is simply inviting them to come and see and hear and decide for themselves. Because of her gracious invitation, people go out to see Jesus and experience his grace for themselves.
Consider this retreat an opportunity for you to meet Jesus at the well, to receive God’s grace today so that you are able to extend that grace to others—and yourself—in the difficult days ahead. I encourage you to use and enjoy the self-guided nature experience that Patrice has created for us. One of the graces I have noticed in the timing of our stay at home orders is that spring is arriving!
*If you want to share about your experience—and read about the experiences of others—please send me an email. I will email all who are participating and you can “reply all” with your insights from the day. The retreat is scheduled for this Saturday, March 28, 2020, but feel free to do it whenever it best fits your schedule. May peace be with you and may grace abound.
Self-Guided Nature Experience:
On your own, go to a natural area and ask for God’s presence and guidance. If you wish, you may refer to the following suggestions, or just be part of the natural world in that area, and open to what you can learn.
Things to look for:
Look for signs of regeneration. How is God’s grace expressed in nature?
Many of us have experienced disruption of things we had planned to do. Can you see signs of how nature deals with change?
Questions to consider:
Is the social isolation we now experience part of an extended Sabbath? Are we, as a part of nature, experiencing rest from our usual frantic activity?
Can this time of rest be an opening to changing our economy from extractive industries to supporting sustainable, renewable ways of living?
In the words of Sarah Augustine: How can we cooperate with the spirit of life?
What song comes to your mind? Sing it, and offer it as your part of the harmony of the natural world around you.
Do nothing. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Take a break from having to figure out what to do, and just listen; just be.
I come to you in my brokenness and my strength, In my despair and my hope.
Thank you for time, for breath, for the beauty of creation.
Let me breathe in your grace and live within your grace and extend your grace to others and to myself.
Quote for the Journey (from Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott):
We try to help where we can, and try to survive our own trials and stresses, illnesses and elections. We work really hard at not being driven crazy by noise and speed and extremely annoying people, whose names we are too polite to mention. We try not to be tripped up by major global sadness, difficulties in our families or the death of old pets . . . We work hard, we enjoy life as we can, we endure. We try to help ourselves and one another. We try to be more present and less petty. Some days go better than others.