Apr 1, 2021.
Holy Week is an opportunity for us to re-experience the Lord’s last days upon this earth. Some are guided through this time with formal liturgies, others are making extra time for prayer and reflection, and still others are simply reading the Gospel narratives of these final events. Whatever your approach, the heart of Holy Week is that we all experience purgation, which in the words of Robert Mulholland is “a renunciation of all blatant inconsistencies with wholeness in Christ.” I’m quite sure we can always benefit from prayers of purgation.
#JesusStories: It is Thursday morning as I am writing this piece, and is the approximate time in that first Holy Week when Jesus and the disciples had finished their Passover meal and were now walking toward the garden of Gethsemane for a final prayer time together. As they walked Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith will be strong. And when you have come back to Me, strengthen your brothers.” This is such a stirring story, especially for anyone who is willing to let the Lord sift them like wheat. What a picture. Just as wheat needs to be shaken so that its husk is separated from its kernel, so do we need to be shaken so that our self-dependency is separated away from our Christ-dependency. And I notice from Peter’s account that Satan was the instrument of the shaking. In point of fact, evil and darkness is often used by the Lord to separate away our self-reliance. Take a moment to remember those historic words, “they meant it for evil, but I have used it for good.” When evil brushes against Jesus’ people, He uses it to shake away ‘self’ and reveal an unobstructed ‘divine-dependency’ in us.
Something else about this Peter story that stirs me is when Jesus said, “But I have prayed for you Peter.” Take a moment and let that sink in – Jesus praying for Peter. And I’m very sure he prays for you and me too. Have you stopped to consider what a powerful thing it is for the Son of God to actually pray for us? If I am filled with expectation when my family and friends pray over me, I am doubly-filled with expectation to think Jesus is praying over me. And yet, this is the job he took right after his ascension – to sit at the right hand of the Father and make constant intercession for us. This is perhaps the most overlooked victory of the Resurrection, that Jesus is now alive to pray for you and me throughout the whole of our lives. Lift up your head and inflame your courage; the Risen Savior is praying for you and me right now! And just as Jesus knew Peter was going to fail in the heat of his sifting moment, Jesus still believed in Him, prayed for him, and knew he would come back strong to strengthen the Church for the rest of his life. Know this: Jesus is praying for us during our sifting moments too. And despite our failings, He is expecting us to come back stronger than ever, and fully empowered to strengthen the Church the rest of our days.
- “Our soul is restless until it finds rest in thee O Lord, for thou has made us for thyself.” -St Augustine
- “There is one thing that would dramatically change the world we live in and help return us to our rootedness in Christ: Bring back the table!” -Len Sweet
#PracticalStuff: Can you get to a table sometime in the next week, and engage in a soul-deep conversation with someone? In this way you will help sift their soul, and they help sift yours. Never under-estimate the specialness of a Jesus Table to increase our dependency upon our Lord.
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.