Two books prepare us for Lent and the Easter season

April Yamasaki has written several books, including two for the upcoming season: ‘Lent 2020: Christ is for Us’ and ‘On the Way with Jesus.’

April Yamasaki has written two books which offer unique insights and opportunities to reflect on Lent and Easter.

She writes about spiritual growth and Christian living on her own site, but also for a range of publications, including Christianity Today and Christian Century. She has authored a dozen books and contributed chapters to several others. She also edits Purpose, “a monthly magazine of everyday inspiration.”

For 25 years she was lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church and is now resident author with Valley CrossWay Church – both in Abbotsford.

Two books published last year relate to the upcoming season.

On the Way with Jesus

Following is a brief excerpt from On the Way with Jesus, subtitled ‘Cycle A Sermons for Lent and Easter Based on the Gospel Readings.’ It concludes this chapter: ‘Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21With Gratitude And Humility’:

Don’t do religious things for show. Give to your local food bank without telling anyone. Take a moment to offer a prayer of gratitude before you get out of bed in the morning and before other people see you. Give up something for Lent without congratulating yourself. Don’t be fake. Don’t be a hypocrite. Be authentic. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Jesus’ teaching about giving, praying and fasting in secret might seem at odds with Ash Wednesday. After all the sign of the cross on our foreheads is anything but secret. As ash it’s a sign of sorrow, a testimony to the fragility of life, like dust a witness that we are human. Yet the cross also reminds us that joy triumphs over sorrow, that death is not the end, that there is a reality beyond what we can see, smell, hear, taste and touch. . . .

And this excerpt is from the On the Way with Jesus Refection and Discussion Guide:

Ash Wednesday

1. What three spiritual practices does Jesus address in Matthew 6:2-4, 5-6, and 16-18?

2. Note that each spiritual practice is introduced with “whenever you” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, NRSV), indicating that for Jesus and his followers, each was a common and expected expression of faithful living. What similarities do you notice in Jesus’ instructions for all three? Which of the three do you commonly practice, and why? Which are not as familiar to you, and why not?

3. From Matthew 6:1, 19-21, what basic principles apply to all three spiritual practices?

4. The opening of this sermon contrasts our carefully curated pictures on social media with the reality of daily life, and notes that “The technology to curate our lives online may be relatively new, but the impulse to re-arrange our lives and show them in the best possible light is an ancient one.” Adam and Eve are given as one example. What other examples of this concern for appearances can you identify in Scripture, online, and in day-to-day living?

5. The sermon applies Jesus’ teaching in this portion of Matthew to Ash Wednesday: Like any worship service or spiritual practice or good deed, Ash Wednesday might also become an occasion for pride and showing off. Just as we might give
or pray or fast to impress others, we might come to Ash Wednesday with that same tendency to make ourselves look good and give ourselves a pat on the back for taking part. But that would miss the whole point of Ash Wednesday as a solemn remembrance of our human frailty and a time for confession and repentance.

How will you live out this call for authenticity on Ash Wednesday, during this Lenten season, and throughout the year?

Lent 2020: Christ is for Us

Christ is for Us, subtitled ‘A Lenten Study Based on the Revised Common Lectionary,’ was published by Abingdon Books late last year. Originally published for Lent 2017, it sold out and has been re-released for Lent 2020.

Here is the summary from April Yamasaki’s site:

Christ is for Us reminds us that no matter what challenges we face in life, no matter what’s happening in the world around us, we can live with confidence and hope in God.

You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of rescue!

says the psalmist.

For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son

proclaims John’s gospel.

In other words, Christ is for me and for all of us.

This study is based on the Revised Common Lectionary for Year A. Each chapter includes commentary and reflection on readings from the Old Testament, the Epistle and the Gospel readings, along with  questions for personal reflection, group discussion, and suggested group activities.

She adds: “The overarching theme of this book is suitable for any time of year. Christ is for us during Lent and always!”

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