During this year's Lent, 17 pastors from five churches in Guangzhou, which is in the Guangdong Province of South China, take turns to share spiritual reflections online.
The 40-day spiritual retreat program titled "Conquer Yourself and Practice Piety" starts from February 22 to April 2, during which 17 pastors from Shifu Church, Fangcun Church, the Church of Our Savior, Chini Church, and Ci'en Church preach around the book of Matthew.
On February 22, Ash Wednesday, Rev. Chen Chan from Shifu Church read Matthew 1:1–17 and then told Christians to remember Christ's suffering and get rid of their selfish wants by reading the Bible, praying, fasting, practicing self-control, thinking about themselves, and turning away from their sins. Pastor Chen also talked about the forty-day spiritual meditation scriptures. These were chosen from the Three-Year Lectionary, which is a three-year cycle of readings in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod's Christian Worship hymnal.
Rev. Wu Zhongwu from the Church of Our Savior said on the second day that the birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Based on Matthew 1:18–25, Wu urged Christians to submit to God, just as Joseph did when he obeyed Him to marry Mary with her pregnancy, though he realized he would face scorn, disdain, and rejection. He also did not sleep with Mary after he married her.
On the third day, Rev. Zhao Lidao from Fangcun Church said King Herod intended to kill Jesus because he felt threatened and mentally unstable after three wise men asked him where the newborn Jewish king was, citing Matthew 2:1–12. When Joseph and Mary were led by God to Egypt, he slaughtered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem. The people at that time were afraid to accept the newborn king as their ruler but recognized Herod as their king.
According to Matthew 3:1-10, Rev. Ye Hailian of Ci'en Church on Xinhua Street shared on February 25 that John lived a simple life in the wilderness preaching repentance while eating locusts and wild honey. Locusts were a source of protein in barren areas where the land could not produce crops. Pastor Ye emphasized that people must repent by forsaking their worldly pursuits and instead focus on building their internal lives and establishing behavior patterns inwardly instead of through external material pursuits.
On the fifth day, Rev. He Shengdian of Shifu Church shared on Matthew 4:1-11, referring to the fact that before beginning His ministry, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The devil told Jesus that he could turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, that he could safely jump off the highest point of the temple, and that if he worshipped the devil, he could rule the whole world. The pastor stated Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:13 to reject the temptations of the devil, that finally left Him. The pastor declared that Jesus’ three temptations were what the people of Israel experienced and failed at in the wilderness. They complained about the lack of food; Aaron and Miriam were jealous of Moses; and they worshiped the golden calf. Jesus didn't beat the devil's temptations with miracles and power, but with God's word. This shows that Christians can stand up to the devil by knowing and following the Bible.
On February 27th, Rev. Zhu Yanli of the Church of our Savior said Jesus proclaimed eight beatitudes on the Mount. The Lord specifically said that being persecuted for the sake of the Lord was a blessing. So Christians should rejoice because the persecution strengthened their relationship with God and allowed them to inherit the earth and the kingdom of God. The persecuted could be comforted and satisfied like the prophets in the Bible. The people who built these godly characters in the Sermon on the Mount were blessed.
- Translated by Abigail Wu