I have read numerous Easter devotionals over the years. Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross by Nancy Guthrie has been a favourite, with her 25 readings from different thinkers. Similarly, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper makes you stop and ponder the vast depths of the sacrifice that Jesus made.
Journey to the Cross is now added to my collection as a great choice of reading in the lead up to Easter. Walker and Haug has designed a set of readings to cover the Lenten period, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday – 6.5 weeks. Each week focusses on a different theme: repentance, humility, suffering, lament, sacrifice and death.
Each day has a reading that calls to worship, a confessional prayer, a section from Mark’s gospel (starting with Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, to the end) and a prayer of thanksgiving. Then there is a devotional based on a Scripture passage relevant to the theme. This ends with some reflection questions and a closing prayer. Each Sunday is a shorter reading, of a hymn or profession of faith, as a way of celebrating the truths of the gospel.
I have benefitted so greatly from this resource. My heart was turned more towards Christ in the lead up to Easter. The sobering themes enabled me to reflect on each for the whole week, enabling more sustained thoughts on things like lament, which I would rarely take the time to do normally.
I found the challenge of how to observe Lent helpful. Lent is a way of giving up something so that we focus on God. Not something that draws attention to itself, but something that draws us into fuller dependence on Jesus. Perhaps it is an acknowledgement of that take us away from Jesus. So, having never having given up anything for Lent before, I did this year. I gave up Facebook, and it was both remarkably freeing and enabled me to see again how it does not help me in my walk with God.
The prayers throughout were very encouraging, and since I love written prayers I may choose to incorporate some into my own private prayers. Many were sourced from The Worship Sourcebook.
Here are just a few of the observations I found encouraging along the way:
“Ultimately, suffering is about learning to receive whatever God has placed in our hands as his goodness for us today.” (p95)
“Lament is not about getting things off your chest. It’s about casting your anxieties upon God, and trusting him with them. Mere complaining indicates a lack of intimacy with God. Because lament is a form of prayer, it transforms our complaints into worship. Anyone can complain, Christians can lament.” (p101)
“The norm in our culture is to sacrifice whatever we have to get what we want. The way of true sanctification is to sacrifice everything we want because of what we already have in Christ. This is the heart of Lent. We are decluttering our lives, inside and out, testing the vales and habits and desires that have become our acceptable norm. We are considering what Jesus gave up for us, and it is changing us” (p146-7)
“Repentance, humility, suffering, lament, and sacrifice do not come naturally. Indulgence and self-righteousness do.” (p157)
It is a sobering way to spend six weeks. Yet it’s also filled with praise and worship and wonder at what Christ has done. In the busyness of first term and the complications of life, this had me dwelling in Jesus and God and their marvellous plan of sacrifice for the whole world. Time very well spent.