Pilgrims journeying together…. Throughout the forty days of Lent, we remember the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. Each week, we will be taking time to reflect upon what might sustain us when we find ourselves in a “ wilderness.” Perhaps not literally, but in terms of facing empty, bleak or difficult times in our own lives. Perhaps something that happens at work, school or at home and we know that somehow we will have to get through it. We will have to “ walk through the wilderness”.
“Lent in a Bag” helps us to consider what we need to journey through that wilderness as pilgrims together. You could use this on your own or with a small group. You could make up a number of bags and give them to friends to use. Print out the following material to use with the bags. Each lent bag will have 5 smaller bags containing items to use each week.
EACH LENT BAG WILL NEED.
5 small paper carrier bags each containing one of the following, dont forget to number the bags.
BAG 1: A small amount of sand and stones.
BAG 2: Tea lights
BAG 3: Bread type wafers or crackers.
BAG 4: Small wooden cross
BAG 5: A nail
Also put in a copy of the following guidance sheets to help direct peoples thoughts and reflections.
- Use the bags numbered 1-5 for each of the five weeks of lent.
- You might like to sit somewhere quiet or light a candle to help you focus on the activity.
- Take the prop and the guidelines sheet out of the numbered weekly bag and spend time considering the comments and questions.
There are no “ right” or “ wrong” answers or responses.
Simply let your thoughts and/or conversation be open to God.
You might like to make a note of, or draw, what you’ve said, thought or prayed to look back on later.
- Take time to sit quietly or pray for a moment or two at the end.
- There are optional bible readings at the end of each reflection which might take your thinking in a different direction!
WEEK ONE: Following Jesus
ITEM: Bag of sand and stones.
From baptism we are called to follow Jesus: to “walk in the dust of the rabbi”. In Jewish culture in the days of Jesus, young boys were taught by a rabbi-a teacher-who they often walked and talked with. The boys were told to stay so close to their teacher, in order to hear him him, that they would be walking in the dust from the road that the rabbi kicked up behind him.
Empty the sand and stones onto a table or tray. Run them through your fingers…trace your finger to make a trail. (You might even take your shoes and socks off and walk on them!) When have you walked on hard, barren or stony ground?
- What was difficult about it?
- What would it have been like to walk behind Jesus across barren land or through “ wilderness”?
- The problems and disappointments we face can often feel like the ‘rocks’ and ‘boulders’, extremes of temperature, or the darkness of a wilderness place.
- Think or talk about this for a while.
- How might knowing that we follow Jesus across that “wilderness” help us?
- How do we stay close to Jesus as we do that?
Pray: Heavenly Father, Help us to “ walk in the dust of the rabbi ” through the difficult places in our lives, and to know that the closer we walk to you, the closer you will be to us. Amen.
You could read Matthew 4: 1-11
A thought: “ Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth” Psalm 86: 11a.
WEEK TWO: Prayer
ITEM: A Tea-light
- Put some matches near your tea light and then turn out the lights so that it is as dark as possible. Now light your tea light.
- What does the light do to the darkness? How does it make you feel?
- When we pray in the darkness or difficulty we find ourselves in, it is as if we light a candle in that darkness. We can see around us and know that God has heard us right where we are and however we are feeling.
- In the silence, bring some of the things that are worrying you, or that you just don’t know what to do about, to God.
- Remember that when you draw near to God you are “ walking in the dust of the rabbi” and that Jesus has walked this way of wilderness and knows how you are feeling and thinking.
- When things overwhelm or upset you, try lighting a candle and spending a few moments being with God in prayer. You don’t even have to say anything, because God is with you where you are.
Pray : Loving Father, hear my prayer as a light piercing the darkness. Amen.
You could read: John 17: 6-12
Thought: “ In the desert, God has marked out no other routes, no other paths than those of prayer.” A Monk.
WEEK THREE: Communion
ITEM: Bread or cracker
When we’re travelling, especially if it’s a difficult journey, we need to stop for food and drink. They keep us going and give us energy to face the really tough bits ahead. Think about a journey and a place-perhaps an unusual one!- where you stopped for a meal or a picnic.
- Talk about how you felt before and afterwards.
- Take out the bread wafer and put it on a plate in front of you.
- Can you think of stories from the bible that involve being fed by bread?
- It seems to be important to God that we are fed and nourished, most especially by God himself. All over the world believers have the opportunity to gather together as a community to share the Eucharist-to be fed and nourished by God.
In Anglican churches they use the words and actions to remember Jesus: “This is my body, which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Break the bread and share it between you to remind yourself how the communion meal can feed and sustain us as we follow Jesus. Talk about the wonderful and mysterious way it can give us “ a piece of God” to help us and to keep us going as we journey in a place of wilderness.
Pray: Gracious Father, thank you that you have given us all we need for our journey with you. Amen.
You could read: Luke 24: 30-35.
A thought: “that impossible word, 'Jesus' lodged in me like a crumb.” Sara Miles.
WEEK FOUR: The Cross.
ITEM: Wooden Cross
As we draw closer to Holy Week we begin to walk closer to the shadow of the cross. We remember that because of God’s great love for us, demonstrated on that cross, we can trust him whenever we are in a wilderness place. Think or talk about some of the “wilderness” things that you have shared before: worry, fear, illness, anxiety, days that feel empty or sad. Take the little wooden cross and trace your fingers over it. Hold it in your hand and feel its shape. Pass it to each other and then place it on the table in front of you.
- Where else do you see a cross like this one?
- Do you have one somewhere in your home?
- Have you seen one on a journey or in an unusual place?
- When you were baptized you were signed with a cross.
- What did that mean?
- Those words and actions remind us that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that we are held in the security and breadth of God’s love. How does remembering what Jesus did on the cross with great love help you?
- How can the cross remind us to trust God and know that we are not forgotten?
Trace your fingers over the cross again-or sign yourself with a cross.
Pray: “ In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.
You could read: Mark 8: 31-36.
Thought: “ Christianity does not ask us to live in the shadow of the cross, but in the fire of its creative action.” Teilhard de Chardin.
WEEK FIVE: The Cross
ITEM: A nail
Through Lent we have remembered that we are called to follow Jesus even through the wilderness: to walk “in the dust of the rabbi.” Over past weeks we have been reminded of some simple “ Rules of Life” that might help us to do that, both individually and together: following Jesus closely, prayer, The Eucharist and remembering the sign of the Cross. This week, as we approach Holy Week, we remember that we are asked to follow Jesus even to that cross. That’s a difficult and sombre thought! For most of us, that doesn’t mean dying on the cross. But it might mean sacrificing something, going without-denying ourselves-or experiencing a time of suffering or difficulty: a time “ in the wilderness.”
Put the nail on the table in front of you and spend time looking at it. When your readt take the nail in your hand…roll it around and feel the weight and sharpness of it
- What does the nail make you think about what happened to Jesus on the cross?
- Does it make you feel Sad? Angry? Confused?
- What does it make you think about the sad and difficult things that happen in your life?
- That nail also says something about a very great love.
- Think about and talk about the nail as a sign of love.
- How might understanding the nail as a symbol of God’s love help you to live and walk in the wilderness places of your life?
Finally, reflect on the last five weeks of Lent. Which one thing that you’ve thought about or talked about from “Lent in a Bag” might help you as you approach Holy Week?
Pray: Loving Father, as I follow Jesus into Holy Week remind me of all you have taught me throughout Lent. Amen.
You could read: John19: 18-22.