Lenten Evening Prayer

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Opening Responses

Leader: Come to us this night, O God,

All: Come to us with light.

Leader: Speak to us this night, O God,

All: Speak to us your truth.

Leader: Dwell with us this night, O God,

All: Dwell with us in love.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Thanks be to you, O Christ,

All: For the many gifts you have bestowed on us, each day and night, each sea and land, each weather fair, each calm, each wild.

Leader: Each night may we remember your mercy given so gently and generously.

All: Each thing we have received, from you it came; each thing for which we hope, from your love it will come; each thing we enjoy, it is of your bounty; each thing we ask, comes of your disposing.

Leader: O God, from whom each thing that is, freely flows,

All: Grant that no tie over strict, no tie over dear, may be between ourselves and this world. Amen.

The Word of God

Leader: O God, as these words are read,

All: In our hearts may we feel your presence.

– The Readings –

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Job

Job is a good man and knows it, as does everybody else including God. Then one day his cattle are stolen, his servants killed, and the wind blows down the house where his children happen to be whooping it up at the time, and not one of them lives to tell what it was they thought they had to whoop it up about. But being a good man he says only, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Even when he comes down with a bad case of boils and his wife advises him to curse God and die, he manages to bite his tongue and say nothing. It's his friends who finally break the camel's back. They come to offer their condolences and hang around a full week. When Job finds them still there at the start of the second week, he curses the day he was born. He never quite takes his wife's advice and curses God, but he comes very close to it. He asks some unpleasant questions:

If God is all he's cracked up to be, how come houses blow down on innocent people? Why does a good man die of cancer in his prime while old men who can't remember their names or hold their water go on in nursing homes forever? Why are there so many crooks riding around in Cadillacs and so many children going to bed hungry at night? Job's friends offer an assortment of theological explanations, but God doesn't offer one.

God doesn't explain. He explodes. He asks Job who he thinks he is anyway. He says that to try to explain the kind of things Job wants explained would be like trying to explain Einstein to a little-neck clam. He also, incidentally, gets off some of the greatest poetry in the Old Testament. Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades? Hast thou given the horse strength and clothed his neck with thunder?

Maybe the reason God doesn't explain to Job why terrible things happen is that he knows what Job needs isn't an explanation. Suppose that God did explain. Suppose that God were to say to Job that the reason the cattle were stolen, the crops ruined, and the children killed was thus and so, spelling everything out right down to and including the case of boils. Job would have his explanation.

And then what?

Understanding in terms of the divine economy why his children had to die, Job would still have to face their empty chairs at breakfast every morning. Carrying in his pocket straight from the horse's mouth a complete theological justification of his boils, he would still have to scratch and burn.

God doesn't reveal his grand design. He reveals himself. He doesn't show why things are as they are. He shows his face. And Job says, I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see thee. Even covered with sores and ashes, he looks oddly like a man who has asked for a crust and been given the whole loaf.

At least for the moment.

(From Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner, Harper & Row, 1973, pp. 46–47.)

Theodicy

Theodicy is derived from the two Greek words meaning deity and justice and refers to the attempt to justify the goodness of God in the face of the manifold evil present in the world. The problem exists for any theism that attributes both power and goodness to the deity. It may be expressed in a famous dilemma: either God is able to prevent evil and will not, or he is able to prevent it and cannot. If the former, he is not merciful; if the latter, he is not omnipotent.

(From A Handbook of Theological Terms by Van A. Harvey, Macmillan Publishing, 1964, p. 236.)

Mark 14:12–16

12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover? 13So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? 15He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there. 16So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

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From The Wisdom of the Desert, Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century by Thomas Merton (Abbey of Gethsemane, 1960), CXLVIII (148):

The Archbishop Theophilus, of holy memory, said, when he came to die: You are a happy man, Abbot Arsenius, for you have always kept this hour before your eyes.

Genesis 2:15–24

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

18Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner. 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.

24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Ecclesiastes 2:12–17

12So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly; for what can the one do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. 13Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.

14The wise have eyes in their head,
but fools walk in darkness.

Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. 15Then I said to myself, What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise? And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 16For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

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Psalm 78:52

52Then he led out his people like sheep,
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

Hosea 13:4–8

4Yet I have been the Lord your God
ever since the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no saviour.
5It was I who fed you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought.
6When I fed them, they were satisfied;
they were satisfied, and their heart was proud;
therefore they forgot me.
7So I will become like a lion to them,
like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.
8I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
and will tear open the covering of their heart;
there I will devour them like a lion,
as a wild animal would mangle them.

Hebrews 3:7–11

7Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
as on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9where your ancestors put me to the test,
though they had seen my works 10for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known my ways.
As in my anger I swore,
They will not enter my rest.

Mark 1:12–13

12And the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Luke 4:1–12

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread. 4Jesus answered him, It is written, One does not live by bread alone.

5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. 8Jesus answered him, It is written,

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.

9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written,

He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,

11and

On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

12Jesus answered him, It is said, Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Lessons on Relationships

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Created to Live Together – Genesis 2:15–25

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

18Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner. 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.

24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Interconnected Nature of Human Life – 1 Corinthians 12:14–26

14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

Other-Directed Behavior – Philippians 2:1–8

1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Build Each Other Up to the Glory of God – 1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1

23All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. 24Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others. 25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, 26for the earth and its fullness are the Lord's. 27If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28But if someone says to you, This has been offered in sacrifice, then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29I mean the other's conscience, not your own. For why should my liberty be subject to the judgement of someone else's conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. 11:1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

The Preciousness of Unity – Psalm 133

1How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
2It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
3It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

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Genesis 13:2–18

2Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.

5Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, 7and there was strife between the herders of Abram's livestock and the herders of Lot's livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land. 8Then Abram said to Lot, Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.

10Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 11So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other. 12Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

14The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you. 18So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Psalm 137

1By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
3For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion!
4How could we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?
5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!
6Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above
my highest joy.
7Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem's fall,
how they said, Tear it down! Tear it down!
Down to its foundations!
8O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

Evening Conversation

Prayers of Concern

Leader: O Christ, kindle in our hearts within a flame of love to our neighbor, to our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all.

All: O Christ of the poor and the yearning, from the humblest thing that lives to the name that is highest of all, kindle in our hearts within a flame of love.

Blessing

Leader: Be the great God between your shoulders to protect you in your going and your coming; be the son of Mary near your heart; and be the perfect Spirit upon you pouring.

All: Amen.


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