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Lent reflections

These weekly Bible reflections take you through Lent, focusing on a different theme each week, perfect for your church small group.

Each week suggests a reading and prayer and reflection points to explore.

Read Job 37:14-24

This passage comes after Job has complained about God letting him suffer, and his friend Elihu is responding to him. For us, the weather is a small talk staple, but here the Elihu uses the breathtaking splendour of the weather to urge Job to recognise God’s power and greatness.

  • What are the situations in which you talk about the weather? Have any of them prompted you to think about God’s majesty in the way Elihu suggests? Why or why not?
  • What are your favourite elements of creation? Take time to consider the wondrous works of God, just as Elihu tells Job to.
  • How have human activities affected these wondrous works? What examples can you think of in which humans preserve or cultivate this beauty? What examples are there of humans spoiling or destroying creation?

In this passage, the intricacy and balance of God’s creation are expounded upon. Elihu reminds us of our human smallness compared to God, but we know that we can have a detrimental impact on God’s creation. As we reflect on the impacts of climate change in Count Your Blessings this week, it’s clear that we have upset the balance of creation, exploiting the earth for our gain, without heed to our interconnected nature. As we extract and burn coal, oil and gas, we raise the temperature of the earth, meaning more droughts, floods and extreme weather events, creating suffering for our sisters and brothers.

  • What does this passage say about the relation between God and creation? What does it say about the relation between humanity and creation?
  • In what ways have we been wise in our own conceit with regards to God’s creation?

On Ash Wednesday we are urged to turn from sin and be faithful to Christ. As churches and communities, as well as individuals, we must all turn away from lifestyles which contribute to climate change, submitting to Christ and seeking to tread more lightly on earth

  • What actions will you and your church take as part of Christian Aid’s Big Shift campaign towards clean energy? For inspiration on how you can make the world a brighter, better place in which all God’s people can flourish, visit christianaid.org.uk/bigshift

Read Philippians 2:1-5

  • What strikes you most about the passage? - Are there times when you have been guilty of looking to your own interests, rather than the interests of others?
  • Does this advice feel pertinent to you and your community? Are there any issues or hurts that this passage speaks to, or could suggest a solution for?

The unity that Paul writes of here is one that begets care for one another. Written for a small community of Christians intimately known to Paul, these words take on new meaning in our globally interconnected world.

  • What is the relationship between love for God, unity in community and care for one another?
  • What does it mean to look to the interests of others in a global world?

At times of need, members of a church are often good at living out these words, rallying and supporting each other – cooking meals for the bereaved, babysitting children when parents are ill, and visiting the sick and lonely. This is also true when disaster strikes in the countries where our partners work – local charities and churches are often the most able to respond quickly, which is why we work through partner organisations to deliver help. Churches in the UK are also able to help, with church collections towards our emergency appeals.

  • Have you thought about donating to emergency appeals in this way before? How do you respond to this reading?

Read Philippians 2:6-8

  • Perhaps the best-known passage in Philippians, do these words read differently to you in light of the earlier passage?
  • How can we learn from the humility of Jesus, God becoming human, to serve one another better?

Read Luke 2:41-52

Luke’s account of Jesus’ childhood jumps from Jesus at 40 days old to 12-year-old Jesus! Jesus’ choice to stay in the temple and to engage in asking and answering questions must, then, be significant. It also speaks to this week’s theme for Count Your Blessings: education.

  • In this passage, Jesus both asks and answers questions, amazing onlookers with his understanding. What question would you ask Jesus in this setting if you had the chance?
  • Do you know any children aged around 12? Would you expect them to behave similarly to Jesus in this story? What does this tell us about Jesus?
  • Mary and Joseph must have felt anxious upon realising Jesus was missing. When have you felt anxious? Was your faith a comfort in that time?

In Lebanon, Christian Aid is working with Mouvement Sociale’s alternative education centre, providing psychological and social support for Syrian refugee children through art, drama and play. These children have little understanding of why they have been forced to leave their homes.

  • In what ways do you think these children are like the young Jesus? How are they different? You might like to think about being away from home, or possibly separated from parents, for example.
  • Twice in this passage, Mary and Joseph are kept in the dark – once at verse 43, when they do not know their child is missing; and at verse 50, when they do not understand Jesus’ words. What might Jesus be trying to teach you? How can you open your mind to further understanding?
  • Can you think of times when, like Mary, you had to settle for treasuring things in your heart, waiting for understanding to be revealed to you?

Read Amos 5:11-15

The prophet Amos calls the Israelites to repentance, particularly highlighting in this passage the disparity between rich and poor. This passage also contains a hint as to the way to escape the condemnation Amos is calling upon the Israelites – to seek good and not evil.

  • What are the ways in which pushing aside the needy or trampling on the poor are prevalent in today’s society? You might like to think about responding to rough sleepers, paying taxes and buying things made under poor labour conditions, for example.
  • In what ways do you participate in these behaviours? How do you try to avoid them?

Amos threatens that the Israelites will not live in the homes they have built themselves, or drink the wine from their vineyards. Are there ways that we can understand this to be true today? Perhaps the destructive culture of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ or the hollow pleasure of accumulating wealth for its own sake are, in a sense, equivalents to the Israelites not drinking the wine of their vineyards.

  • What do you think? Are there ways in which you are ensnared by these temptations? What can you do to avoid them?
  • How does God’s grace for us, when we fall short, work with this call to hate evil and love good?

Fairtrade Fortnight begins this week, and Count Your Blessings encourages us to think of five items we can swap for fairtrade versions. This reminds us of our power as consumers, to choose to buy products that are life giving, rather than exploitative.

Visit the Fairtrade website to see the range of Fairtrade items available.

  • What items do you routinely buy that are fairtrade? Have you discovered anything that you didn’t realise you could buy fairtrade?
  • Can buying fairtrade be a fulfilment of the instructions in verse 15? What other things can you do to hate evil, love good and establish justice?

Read Numbers 27:1-11

The story of Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah, hidden away in a dense book of laws and ordinances, is a little known gem. As the law stood, these women were not provided for, as they didn’t have a father or brother to inherit land in the promised land. They petition to inherit their father’s portion, and the inheritance rules are rewritten.

  • Have you heard this story before? What are your first impressions?
  • Reading through the story, how do you think the daughters felt at each point? Worried, nervous, frustrated?
  • What does the result of their petition tell us about God?

The ruling is that women can inherit, but only when they have no brothers – something we would probably consider to be unfair today. Yet this sets a minimum protection for women at a time when they had little or no recognition. In some of the countries that Christian Aid works in, women are restricted from full participation in society.

In last year’s Christian Aid Week story, Loko in Ethiopia was denied a voice in her community because she didn’t own a cow. Thanks to the support of churches in Britain and Ireland, our partner HUNDEE was able to help her receive a cow, join a small savings group and gain respect in her community.

  • How many people can you think of through history that has challenged oppression and demanded respect and rights? Give thanks to God for them.
  • What battles for gender justice still need to be fought? Can you think of examples in the UK and overseas?
  • What can you do to help further the cause of women’s full participation in all areas of society?

Read Genesis 41:46-57

Joseph has drastically moved up in society, from unjust imprisonment to the Pharaoh’s most trusted advisor. In this passage he is preparing for the famine predicted in the Pharaoh’s dream earlier in the chapter.

  • How might it have felt to have been in Egypt at the time of plenty and being told that you couldn't enjoy all that you had worked for?
  • By verse 54, the famine has begun, but the people of Egypt still have enough to eat. Have there ever been times when you have been able to look back and recognise the benefit of sacrifices you have made?
  • What does this passage highlight about the nature of famine? What does it say about God’s plans?

Christian Aid is working with farming communities around the world to help them be resilient to changes in weather patterns, so that they have enough to eat all year round. In Malawi, our partner sends weather forecast text messages to farmers, so that they can plant their crops at the best time. These text messages, like the warning dreams and Pharaoh’s planning, mean that more people have enough to get by.

  • What do you think it's like to trust your livelihood on information that someone you don't know has provided for you?

Read Matthew 26:17-30

Jesus spent his teaching years travelling from place to place, without a permanent place to call home. However, he was supported by a network of followers, and the Gospels recount many of his visits to the homes of people of all statuses.

  • What is the thing you most value about where you live?
  • How many occasions can you think of in which Jesus visits a home?
  • What does Jesus do in these homes? Are there any common themes?

Read Luke 10:38-42

  • How do you think it would feel to have Jesus visit you at home? What would you be concerned about?
  • Who in this story do you identify with? Why?

This week we remember the Last Supper, which took place in the home of someone willing to let Jesus and his disciples use it. People all over Jerusalem were remembering the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the beginning of a long period of travel, so it is right at this time to remember the value of a safe home.

  • Have you ever lived in temporary accommodation or a place that was not your own? How did it feel different to long-term accommodation? Did it feel less safe?

After the Nepal earthquake in April 2015, many people’s homes and livelihoods were reduced to rubble. In the time since, Christian Aid has been supporting people on the long road to recovery, including training carpenters in building new, more resilient shelters. Carpenter Lokpr Ashad says: ‘This training has helped my livelihood, and has also helped me to help the community in a much better way, making them safer if another earthquake happens.’

  • Do you think this work is a kind of hospitality? What other unusual ways of practising hospitality might there be?
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