Little Liturgy for Lent (2 of 7): “The Surprise of Being Loved”

Attention Seekers is a project that is about practicing presence in the world – of being alert and attentive to the mystery of existence all around us.

The Season of Lent offers a unique opportunity in the church calendar to practice this sort of intentional attentiveness. And so, instead of posting a series of Lenten reflections as we did last year, we are offering these “Little Liturgies” to aid our fellow attention seekers out there!

The prayers and reflections that follow are pilfered from a variety of sources online and in print (sources acknowledged below).

We follow a version of this liturgy in community each week at Newtownbreda (St. John’s) Presbyterian Church. Join us any Wednesday from 1.00 – 1.20 pm, if you are free.


When all we have hoped for and trusted in has let us down;
There is Christ who reaches out to us.
When the world seems dark and despairs threatens to close in upon us;
There is Christ, reaching out for us.
Come and let us worship the Lord who is always ready to reach out to us.
We humbly come before the Lord in hope and faith. AMEN.


(Written by Thom Shuman.) 

(inspired by Luke 8:12-17)

we have preserved our joy
in manna jars
    for the long winter of despair,
    storing them in the dark corners
                of our souls,
        we have forgotten
        its gritty taste;
we have put a tight lid
on our joy,
    and put it in the back 
    of the pantry,
            we have forgotten
            how it can tickle
            our noses;
we are so busy 
    prattling pious platitudes
    about the poor, the least, the lost,
            we ignore your words
            which anoint them
            as your children;

we have put up 
the shutters and storm doors
    to keep your future
    from sneaking in,
        we have missed
        the sweet breeze
        carrying your hope
             to us;
we are who we are,
        restore us, Holy Grace,
    and make us 
    a fragrant offering
            to the world.

READING: John 12:1-8 (NRSVA)

12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

REFLECTION: “Precious Spikenard” by Dr Sheila Cassidy, a palliative care physician. 

(borrowed from The Little Book of Lent compiled by Arthur Howells) 

Mary’s extravagant gesture (anointing the feet of Jesus with the expensive ointment, spikenard) must have been her way of saying to him, ‘I love you. I know what is going on inside you. I can’t stop it happening, but I want you to know that I care and to take the memory of my love with you, to comfort you in dark days ahead.’ Perhaps this episode gave Jesus the strength he needed, at that moment, to carry on with his mission.

In the same way the love that we pour out on the dying or the handicapped says many things. It is an expression of our need to serve, to love, however flawed our motives. To the person cared for it is the gesture that makes the pain bearable, life somehow worth living:

No revolution will come in time 
to alter this man’s life
except the one surprise
of being loved. (Sidney Carter)     

But the most important message is the unspoken one to the world at large: that this ‘dead loss to society’, this dying woman or handicapped man, is infinitely precious. If I as a doctor spend an hour of my clinic time talking to a woman who has only a few weeks to live, I am making a statement of her worth. I am giving her that time that could have been spent with people who will get better, who will be able to contribute once again to the common good. I am affirming the worth of the individual person in a world in which the individual is at risk of being submerged or valued only for his strength, intellect or beauty. It is a prophetic statement about the unique value of the human person, irrespective of age, social class or productivity. It is an affirmation that people matter just because they are people, because God made them and loves them, just as they are, not because they are good or witty or physically beautiful.

We isolate the handicapped on the pretext that they will disturb the peace – when the reality is that their presence disturbs our desire for the beautiful. We isolate our dying on the pretext that they want peace – when the reality is their presence disturbs our sense of omnipotence and immortality.Meanwhile there will always be those who find themselves called like Mary of Bethany to disturb the peace by pouring out over some dead loss to society that which could have been sold for three hundred denarii.


(Adapted from a prayer by the Jesuit Refugee Service)

Lord Jesus,

You were born in the insecurity of homelessness, your family had to flee the violence of the powerful, you chose to walk the roads of Galilee with the poor, you listened to and welcomed the marginalized, women who were despised, the sick and lepers, you heard the call of the bereaved, and in your silence before Pilate, you let the call for true justice resound. Lord, in this time of quiet we bring to you our prayers for the forgotten in our world.

We begin by praying for all those who have been displaced, who find themselves as strangers in foreign lands. In particular, we pray for those seeking refuge and asylum on our shores.

(Silence) Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the sad and the lonely, for those who find the days long and wearisome. In particular, we pray for those known to us who are in need of a friend.

(Silence) Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the sick and the bereaved, for those living with suffering of any kind. We name before you now those known to us who need your peace at this time.

(Silence) Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, as we end this time of prayer, we ask that you would give us the courage to be the answer to our prayers. May you use us to accompany, defend and serve the forgotten.

As we recommit ourselves to following you, we ask that you would enlarge our hearts

and nourish our daily commitment to share the hope that you have brought, and that you still bring to our world.We ask this of you, who lives with the Father and the Spirit today and forever. Amen.


Generous God,
As you pour your anointing Spirit on us,
so may we pour out your love on those we will meet today;
may we demonstrate by what we say and what we are,
that all are valued and precious in your sight because they are your people.