Man bedecked in orange raises his hands in the air

Week Four - Transformation

This year's Lent Challenge is accompanied by a six-week online Lent course. The material draws on the key themes of the new diocesan vision, Transforming Church, Transforming Lives - prayer and growth; transformation and the mission of God; the people of God, Church and Kingdom.

Each of the six week sessions begins with a time of prayer and a conversation starter to introduce the theme. This is followed by a Bible reading - and a reflection on that passage drawing on the tradition of lectio divina. This is a way of reading Scripture together, listening to it as God’s word to us, and prayerfully reflecting on it. Lectio divina might look something like this:

  • Read the passage through once
  • Keep a few moments silence
  • Read the passage a second time with different voices
  • invite everyone to say aloud a word or phrase that strikes them
  • Read the passage a third time
  • Share together what this word or phrase might mean, and what questions it raises

After reflecting on Scripture, a short reflection is offered to lead into further exploration of our response to the week's theme.

The discussion questions engage with the vision of Transforming Church, Transforming Lives. The ‘footprints' section is an opportunity to consider practical actions which we can take in the week ahead; actions which enable us to be alert to the activity of God in the world. These suggestions stand alongside those related to projects supported by the Bishop of Guildford's Foundation and the Diocese of Kebbi in Nigeria. Each weekly session ends with prayer.

Lent Course 2017 - Week Four - Transformation

Word document version of Lent Course 2017 - Week Four (as shown on this page of the website) - for simple download and print.
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Opening Worship

Lent crosses imageGod the Father, Lord of creation,
have mercy upon us.

God the Son, through whom all things were made,
have mercy upon us.

God the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth,
have mercy upon us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, creating and saving God,
have mercy upon us.

You visit the earth and water it;
you make it very plenteous.

The river of God is full of water
you prepare grain for your people,
for so you provide for the earth.

You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;
you soften the ground with showers and bless its increase.

You crown the year with your goodness,
and your paths overflow with plenty.

May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness
and the hills be girded with joy.

May the meadows be clothed with flocks of sheep
and the valleys stand so thick with corn
that they shall laugh and sing.

Psalm 69.8-13

God of our days and years,
we set this time apart for you.
Form us in the likeness of Christ
so that our lives may glorify you.  Amen.

Conversation
  • Do you think the world is getting better, worse, or staying broadly the same?
Reflecting on Scripture

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. (Romans 12.1–13)

Reflection

Some of us lead the prayers of intercession in church, and all of us (hopefully!) pray along with them. How often have you prayed, or joined in with prayers which almost exclusively focus on global problems? Famine, the situation in Syria, the plight of the refugees, these are the things we should be praying about aren’t they? Are these not the places we want to see God’s transformation? Of course, they are, and the instinct to pray for world peace, an end to hunger and relief for refugees is vitally important. Who would not pray for God’s transforming power to change these situations?
 
There might, however, be something less noble behind our immediate dash to the newspaper (and a consequent failure to pray about the small, local, individual needs for transformation) when preparing prayers of intercession. It might be that we focus more or less exclusively on praying for big, geo-political transformation, because (a) we don’t think small, local and individual things need transforming, or (b) we don’t want them transformed, or (c) we are afraid of them being transformed. All of this can (and often does) make our praying lopsided, with God concerned about governments, but not about the difficulties at the local school.

The reading from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans reminds us that transformation, more often than not, happens by increments, and happens through the lives of individuals being changed. Transformation happens when our lives are more and more opened to God. Transformation happens when our minds and emotions are tutored in God’s ways so that we can discern his purposes.

This is of great comfort, particularly when the world, as it did in St. Paul’s day, seems dark, and when the church seems to lack the necessary strength to do anything about it. The transformation God brings is very often small, a few lives in a community perhaps. The kind of transformation that we might realistically see in our parishes. But those few, re-oriented lives can have an impact, and that impact can plant the seeds for transforming other lives. The ripples of human life opened up to God works outwards and has a significant impact.

Despite this, knowing that God is in the business of starting small can also be of great concern. It means that if I am being genuinely truthful about wanting God to change the world, my life has to be on the agenda too. My life will change, my actions will change, spending priorities will change, my leisure time will change, my words and relationships will change, my church will change, and all of this is unsettling. For those like the predictable and regular, to find out that the transformation of the world we long for starts with us, threatens the comforting ‘normal’ ways of life. It might be that we need to stop asking the question: ‘is God transforming the world?’, and instead ask ‘How am I being transformed?”

For Discussion
  • In what ways do you, or your church, struggle with the thought of transformation and change? Do you find it threatening?
  • Can you think of a few ways in which you think God might be calling you or your church might be being called to change?
Fingerprints
  • This week, try to be attentive to the smallest works of God's transforming love. Whay do they teach you about God's way with us? 
Closing Worship

Let us pray
Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

A short period of silence is kept

Let us hear our Lord's blessing on those who follow him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are those who suffer persecution for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

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