A Deaconess Reflects on Lent and Childhood in the Philippines:
Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2009
by Liwliwa T. Robledo
A golden thread connects my childhood Lenten experiences to the glorious Easters of my adult service as a deaconess. When I was growing up in a rural town in the Philippines, Lent had a great impact on me. When the Lenten season arrived, the whole town, made up of Roman Catholics and Protestants, took on a reflective mood. In my young mind, a pall came over our town during Lent.
Adults admonished children to be quiet, to avoid rambunctious games, and to stop running around unnecessarily. Of course, this was very difficult for children to do. But respect for elders came first, so we obeyed. This restraint on children's behavior increased during the final week of Lent. The adults reminded us that we should observe Holy Week, or semana santa, by focusing on Jesus and his journey to the cross.
The most memorable thing during semana santa was listening to the pabasa, when mothers, aunts, and grandmothers sang the Passion story. The melody sounded like a lament. Taking turns, they sang duets and solos about Jesus' journey to the cross, and we listened quietly and thoughtfully.
Good Friday found the town very somber and homes empty because people were in churches. The Protestants, including the Methodists, attended the afternoon service devoted to listening to the seven last words of Jesus.
I found Good Friday to be a sad day. Deep in my heart I was very eager for Sabado Gloria, or Holy Saturday, to prepare for Easter Sunday when Jesus rose from the grave!
These memories have shaped the way I observe the Lenten season and have taught me self-sacrifice. I now see Lent as a profound opportunity to be meditative. By being still, I experience a dynamic and invigorating tranquility, which invites me to imagine mission and ministry possibilities that require my active engagement.
Jesus died so that a life-changing event would happen for us personally and corporately. "I am telling you the truth; a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die then it produces many grains." (John 12:24) Jesus was not only foretelling his death but teaching us that self-sacrifice bears fruit. Indeed, Jesus wanted us to understand that we are like planted seeds, called to sprout new life, bloom, and be productive.
The paradox of Christ's death is that it brought us faith and hope. As a grain of wheat sown into the ground lives again, his death gave birth to the church--the body of Christ. The growth of the Christian church--even with the challenges that have shaken its foundations--fills me with faith and hope, particularly during Lent.
As a deaconess for many years serving in various settings, I, too, have experienced trials of ministry. But the special love of God continues to refresh, challenge, and keep me faithful. Students whom I have helped to develop their highest potential, my staff, and teaching colleagues have all touched me deeply. I hope I have made a difference in their personal and professional lives.
Liwliwa T. Robledo, PhD, a deaconess of The United Methodist Church, just finished her term as president of Harris Memorial College, the deaconess training institution in the Philippine United Methodist Church, in June 2008. In July 2008, she began a new appointment in Congregational Care and Growth at East United Methodist Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado, working with her husband, the Rev. Ramon V. Robledo, pastor of the local church. Dr. Robledo is going to lead a UMVIM team to the Philippines from May 28 to June 10, 2009, with deaconess friend Penny Krug from Indiana. A few slots are still open for painters, teachers, doctors, and nurses. Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 719-633-4611 for more information.
Date posted: Mar 10, 2009