Senses & Lent: The Final Week

Can you believe we're finally into the final week of Lent?!

How have you found walking through Lent with your 'senses wide open' this year? Have there been areas that have surprised you or disciplines that you've found useful and will take forward?

In Welsh, this week is called "The Great Week" and that's a fantastic description of this week: the fact Jesus died and was raised and has enabled us to enter into a relationship with our Heavenly Father. That is indeed GREAT news!

Isaiah 64:4-5: Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways.

🎉 Easter Sunday - Rejoice! 🎉

And so we reach the climax: an empty tomb, a risen Saviour, and a rejoicing church. Happy Resurrection Sunday!

We pray, today, you will:

See the Empty Cross and know Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will return in glory for us

Hear the praises of God ringing through your church and your home

Smell the flowers the church is decorated in and the aromas of meals to be enjoyed

Feel the embraces of friends and church family and the signs of spring breaking out around us (maybe even some sunshine!)

Taste and feast on good food as we celebrate the fact Jesus did conquer death and sin

However you are celebrating, we pray you know even more deeply this Resurrection Sunday of ‘the joy of Your salvation’ as we remember how much Jesus loved us that He gave Himself for us.

Card of the Empty Tomb by Nap Time Illustration - £2.55

🖤 Black Saturday: and there was nothing 🖤

Sensory deprivation tank therapy has become a ‘thing’. In case it’s a new concept to you, the idea is you enter a tank through a door or lid and there’s a foot or so of body temperature salt water to float in. Once the lid is closed, you are completely cut off from the outside world, no sound, no sight, and even, thanks to the floating, freedom from the effects of gravity.

I have to confess, such a space sounds awful to me, although fans of it say it is deeply relaxing and can spark creativity. But it made me wonder at the nothingness of Easter Saturday.

Jesus’ body in a tomb. Deprived of light, sound, and the outside world. The disciples hiding in the upper room, closed from the outside world. All the hype of the week and then the horror of Good Friday and then…nothing. Silence. Seeming failure.

It can be uncomfortable to sit in the nothingness. We prefer to be in the doing and, let’s face it, even failure can sometimes feel easier than doing nothing.

The challenge for today is to sit in the nothing. Not rush into Easter Sunday but really consider what Jesus did for us on the Cross and to sit with that.

Very early on Easter morning Art print by MySoulThirsts - £20

🌳 Good Friday: Splinters of Wood 🌳

My thoughts turn today to the hands of a carpenter. Have you ever run your hands over a piece of furniture crafted out of wood? Can you feel the grain under your fingertips, the fact it’s never completely cold, perhaps the carvings inlaid?

A piece of finished wood is smooth from the hours of planing and sanding to make it usable. The cross would not have been smooth. No one spent time or care pulling together wood to crucify criminals and Jesus wouldn’t have been given special treatment.

He had watched His earthly father plane and chisel and work with wood, He had learnt how to do it Himself. He knew what it was like to gain splinters or accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer.

Have you ever realised how many times God meets His people under trees? Adam and Eve hide among the trees in the Garden of Eden when God comes looking for them, after they’ve sinned. Abraham is sitting under the great oaks of Mamre when ‘the Angel of the Lord’ tells him Sarah will bear a son. Moses comes face to face with the Living God through the flames of the burning bush. In John 1, we hear of how Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree. And don’t forget how much cedar the Temple was built with - the Temple where God could meet with His people.

The cross, though, was a different experience with wood. The hammer didn’t miss, the nails weren’t accidental, and the rough wood wasn’t there to be sanded into comfortable touch. This time, though, this tree will bring the ultimate meeting to pass. This meeting ‘under a tree’ is one that will change eternity.

We must not shy away from the horror of Good Friday. I can remember as a child feeling how cruel it was to call torture and death ‘good’. And yet, because of that, we can now meet with God, be with God, and, ultimately, live forever with God.

Step outside today and find a tree. Run your hand along the bark and wonder that the God of the Universe should die on a cross made of wood so that we can meet face to face with Him and accept the invitation into eternal life with Him.

Bible verse wood slice coaster set of 4 by Birch and Tides - £15

🍞 Maundy Thursday: Feeding on the Bread of Life 🍞

In an era of low carbs, bread is side eyed but historically, bread was the staple of your diet. You needed bread to function and have the energy to accomplish all you needed to do. Doing without it meant starving.

Jesus states He is several things throughout the Gospels but one of them is: “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).

To do without Him, would be to do without the mainstay of our lives. To not be taking in that which will enable us to function and have the energy to accomplish all He has planned for us. To do without The Bread of Life is a death sentence.

Today would be a great day to make bread - whether it’s a simple flatbread you can mix up and cook in a skillet or a more complex loaf, make some bread. Smell it cooking and then take it and some wine/grape juice (we won’t tell if it needs to be Cola!).

Sit and hold the two and recall Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Blessed and Broken Art Print by The Paths of Life - £5.50+

🌹 Good Wednesday: Smell the perfume 🌹

Does it feel like we’re zooming through Holy Week? Friday is looming and it feels like everything is holding its breath.

I wonder if it felt any different that week, for the disciples or the average person on the street, or whether the week was just cracking on with the excitement of Passover coming and no idea that this would be the last Passover where a lamb needed to be sacrificed to cover their sins?

Can you remember back to Epiphany and the gifts the Magi brought? Did you know the way to extract frankincense and myrrh involves wounding the tree? They would have been expensive gifts to receive (for the poor tree and also the giver). During Holy Week, Jesus receives another expensive gift: spikenard.

Mary’s vial of nard is nearly a year’s wages. Think of how much you earn in a year and ponder: would you be willing to convert it into an expensive perfume and pour it all away? Would you watch the drops disappearing onto the floor and think “that was every date night this year” or “there goes the new car”? Would it be worth it for you? Would costly obedience and a desire to serve Jesus be worth pouring out your life savings?

Don’t go hunting for myrrh, frankincense, or nard specifically (they’re still expensive essential oils!), but is there a special scent you’ve been saving? Whether a candle you were gifted or some perfume that you love but is running low? Consider using it and praying you will be obedient to whatever God asks of you. Let the scent remind you of what Mary poured out for her Saviour and to keep our own hearts softened to Him and our hands outstretched.

(This is your reminder to turn over your diffuser reeds if you haven’t already!)

Still Rhubarb & Mint Candle by And Hope Designs - £17.50

Be Still Christian Candle | Whitehouse Collection - Cheerfully Given

🕯️ Tuesday: The Expectant Pause 🕯️

It can feel sometimes like Tuesday is a bit of a lull in the busyness of Holy Week. Well, lean into that! When using our senses, sometimes we do need to ‘be still and know that I am God’.

We spend our lives busy. It is the general state of being and we can often feel guilty if we pause. If you look at Jesus during the week running up to His crucifixion, He must have been aware how limited His time was and yet He spends the hours before He is arrested, not preaching or healing or running around. He comes completely away, seeks the solitude of a garden, and agonises with God the Father. He pulls Himself away to know the will of His Father - to know, if you like, “that I am God”.

If you are facing a hard situation, the temptation can be to DO something. Can we discipline ourselves today to ‘be still and know God’?

Some ideas of how you can ‘be still’ (have you a favourite way? Do share it in the comments on Facebook or Instagram!):

🕯️ Go and sit near your windchime and just stop and listen

🕯️ Light a candle

🕯️ Put on some instrumental music (I love using hymns for this)

🕯️ Go for a walk (this may seem the opposite of ‘being still’ but sometimes we need to keep our body active while we quiet our spirit and mind with Jesus)

Be Still Pomegranate Candle by Whitehouse Collection - £14

Bergamot & Sweet Orange Handcrafted Soap | Suddy Nora | Cheerfully Given - Christian Gifts UK

🧼 Monday: The Cleansing of the Temple

Do you know what Jesus does after the big grand entrance into Jerusalem? Having made a big noise… He looks around and goes home! (Well, back to friends’). “Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” (Mark 11:11)

Monday is when it all kicks off - He storms into the Temple and starts hurling things around! The Temple should have been filled with the sound of praise and the scent of incense, but instead had the sound of shopping and the smell of animals.

I doubt the sellers and money changers had marched in one day to the vibrant Temple worship, demanded a spot to sell, and been handed an entire court. Had they completely forgotten that God intended to bless the world through them and thus this court would be needed for the Gentiles that came?

It’s rare that sin in our lives makes a grand entry. There are normally many small footsteps that take us along a route where we ultimately discover we are not walking God’s path.

Today, pause. Make time to pray and see - are there areas of your life that need cleansing? Jesus provides this picture, through the cleansing of the Temple, of what He needs to do in our lives. We may not have meant to kick Him out of His rightful place, but we so frequently do.

(If you’re in the middle of spring cleaning, it can provide a great opportunity to consider what may need ‘spring cleaning’ out of your heart!)

Bergamot & Sweet Orange Soap by Suddy Nora (£5.50)

✋🏽 Touch: Palm Sunday

Sometimes the stories can become so well known that they become a bit flat or 2d. It’s hard to imagine there actually being real living breathing people involved.

Today’s challenge will require a branch or leaf, some sand, a piece of rope, and a blanket. Lay them out on a tray (maybe place the blanket over your knees) and go find an audio reading of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11 or Luke 19:28-44).

Switch the reading on and close your eyes. Feel the texture of the branch, the grittiness of the sand, the rough rope, and the blanket covering you. Remember those who came out to greet Jesus, the apostles who didn’t understand what was fully going on, and Jesus as He wept in the middle of it because He did understand what was going on.

Palm Leaf Decoration by Wild Atonement (£4.50 + FREE UK DELIVERY)