REQUEST PRAYER

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Lent Prayer request from The Bishop

OUR FORTY DAYS WALK WITH JESUS 2018
PASSION LIVED FURTHER REVEALS JESUS TO US.
To: Rectors
Priests in Charge
Church Wardens

Dear People of God
It is once again Lent a season of repentance, prayer and fasting. The season lasts for 40 days, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter. The period is marked by solemnity and contemplation, and it is common for Christians to fast and sacrifice certain things during this time. The Lenten season is kept because it reminds Christians of Jesus’ sacrifice and suffering on the cross. This time is viewed as an opportunity for believers to work on their spiritual lives.
This year has an unusual occurrence coming up on February 14. It is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. This is an interesting combination what with a red heart with an ashen cross brushed upon it? We are also in the words of Matthew 16:18 reminded on how to prepare for the fast;
When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
When Jesus taught about how to fast his aim to draw those fasting that it was done to draw them into a closer relationship with God and to do so in reverence and private conversation with God. This is a time to replace our thought of hunger with thoughts and conversation with God. When experiencing hunger pains, stop and say a prayer, pray for strength, and guidance in some issues of great importance in life. There are many issues we can pray for during this season, such as praying for people in your community, for your children and children in general, community/national leaders, neighbours, the church, the list is endless, however as the Diocese of Swaziland this year we urge you to ponder on PASSION LIVED FURTHER REVEALS JESUS TO US.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again,
in fulfilment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
– Nicene Creed
In the words of the Nicene Creed the truth of our redemption is summarised. Unfortunately we have become so familiar with these words that we hardly give any thoughts to them. We have memorised these words that they come tumbling out of our mouths. The question is do we really understand their meaning? How can we truly grasp by heart the deep truths they contain? It is for this reason that we have found it helpful that this Lenten season as a diocese let us take time together to study relevant Scripture texts that will help us to understand Jesus’ tremendous love as revealed through his passion, death and resurrection and what they mean to us. Prayerfully contemplating our crucified Lord we will come to know the depths of his mercy and compassion towards us who do not deserve such sacrificial love.
According to God’s plan Jesus came in the flesh, he suffered and died on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead and he did this so that we could be saved by imitation of him, and recover our original status as sons of God by adoption (Basil the Great in the fourth century). Through his death we have received life. The cross may seem an instrument of torture in the eyes of unbelievers, but to those who believe it is the instrument of salvation (1 Cor. 1:18). When as Christians look to Golgotha, we see what love is. Thomas Aquinas once noted that “the Passion of Christ is enough to serve as a guide and model throughout our lives.” We are therefore urged to reflect on our need for reconciliation, a time to ask where we have sinned and not lived the passion of Christ and have been deaf to God’s call to us and to repent.
Let us in the words of the Apostle Paul “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20) and live the passion of Jesus Christ. We are urged through our actions not to reject the offer of our salvation, let us these forty days open our hearts to the mystery of the cross and its meaning for you and me personally. Let us hold on to the life-giving power of the cross so that we can share in the victory that Jesus won for us. It is our wish that on the last day we meet him healed and transformed in body, mind and spirit and our image being like that of our Lord the king of kings.
After resurrection the apostles, including those who before had denied him, they went out to preach his message, and what they preached was the cross and wherever they went the revolutionary power of the cross went with them. The power of the cross was so radical that it transformed the greatest persecutor of Christians, Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christian into a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. The cross did this and it continues to do so even today, it changed from being a thing of death to a thing of beauty. These days even those who do not know the power of the cross revere it and wear it and use it as ornaments. The cross by bringing Christ’s life to an end, it also ends the old life and bring new life to Christ’s followers. It destroys the old pattern in a believer’s life. The God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.
HOW DO WE LIVE THE PASSION OF CHRIST?
Before leaving the courtyard of the praetorium, the soldiers placed the crossbeam on Jesus’ shoulders. It was the custom to compel the condemned person to carry the crossbeam to the site of crucifixion. It was also custom to journey to Golgotha by the longest road in order that a large number of persons might view the condemned criminal. As Christ carried his cross, he also directs that;
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
So following Jesus, and living his passion, entails self-denial. As Jesus was carrying his cross to Golgotha, some women who had known his life of loving ministry wept as they saw him as he was being led to be crucified. In response to their weeping Jesus turned to them and said;
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but rather weep for yourselves an for your children. My work is about done and soon I go to my Father……. Luke 23:28
Jesus’ remarks seem hard to understand at first glance and harsh. The women seem to be doing a very human and appropriate thing that is, mourning the mistreatment of the Son of God. Don’t you see yourself doing exactly the same thing? In addition to the above statement he goes on to say, “Blessed are the childless women.” His words seem very out of context with the events that are taking place.
It seems that even here, on his way to the cross, Jesus is looking ahead to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 at the end of the first Jewish-Roman War, and he is expressing his pity and compassion for the victims of that impending conflict. This seems to be a warning that by rejecting the understanding of the kingdom of God that Jesus brought, and by following other leaders into a political and military revolt, the Jewish people would put themselves on a collision course with Rome that within a generation would have this tragic result.
The statement Jesus makes to the women of the Jerusalem as he is walking towards his crucifixion is a warning that the suffering will be so terrible, that people will consider women fortunate who have not had children who will have to go through it.
Showing concern for others’ sufferings, even as he was about to be crucified, demonstrates our Saviour’s heart of selfless compassion for others. And so I believe he is honoured in this Lenten season not only when we meditate on his sufferings, even weeping over them as these women did , but also when we show the same compassion for the suffering of the innocent that he did.
Jesus in his human form on his way to crucifixion he was weary, he had not had neither food now water since the Last Supper. Over and above that he had not had any sleep; he also had endured physical beatings which resulted in loss of blood. All these culminated in extreme mental anguish and he was lonely as his disciples were nowhere around. The exhaustion was manifest in his staggering under the weight of the crossbeam. In all that he went through the beatings, the insults, and torture, Jesus remained composed, maintaining his dignity and never complained. The only word he uttered was “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Intercession including for his executioners was the driving force of his life of unselfish service. The soldiers as they partook of their wine, they derisively offered a toast to Jesus, saying, “Hail and good fortune to the king of the Jews.” And they were astonished at the Master’s tolerant regard of their ridicule and mocking.
Right at the cross as he was going through the anguish, he was thirsty for you and me. When Jesus heard one of the thieves on the cross ask; “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded by saying “Verily, verily, I say to you today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” The master had time amidst the pangs of mortal death to listen to the faith confession of the believing thief. The believing thief came to the realisation that he had mistakenly thought Barabas was the hero, now he knew who the real hero was. Even as he died on the cross, the centurion smote his breast and said; “This was indeed a righteous man, truly he must have been a Son of God.” And from that hour he began to believe in Jesus.
Jesus as he appeared before the Sanhedrin declined to make replies to the testimony of perjured witnesses. But when he was questioned about his Sonship, he did not hesitate to respond to the affirmative. He only spoke where he thought whatever people (such as Pilate) he was talking to could be helped to a better knowledge of the truth by what he said. Although Jesus said very little during these trials, he said enough to show all mortals the kind of human character human can perfect in partnership with God and to reveal to all the universe the manner in which God can become manifest in the life of the creature when such a creature truly chooses to do the Father, thus becoming an active son of the living God.
Finally during his passion, Jesus’ love for humanity was disclosed by his patience and self-control in the face of the jeers, blows and buffetings of the coarse soldiers and the unthinking servant. He was not angry even when they blindfolded him and, derisively striking him in the face exclaiming, “Prophesy to us who it was that struck you.” In all this Jesus never failed to reveal God to humankind.
What about you and me, to what extent have we lived the passion of Jesus Christ?
We urge you to take time and reflect on the theme provided in whatever creative way you can. Sometime mid-lent we shall come together for a night prayer at St. Michael’s chapel to pray together for strength and courage to live the passion and have Jesus revealed in our lives and that we further reveal him to others.
May your ways be known throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere. Psalm 67:2
May the Lord be with us as we Pray, Fast and Give.

Yours in Christ

Rt. Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya.
Bishop of Swaziland