pastor's corner - March 1st
It began with ashes last Wednesday. “From dust you came and dust you will return.” A stark reminder of the fragility of life. Author, Rob Bell notes, “For the seven weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday, we practice sober awareness of our frailty, sins and smallness. It starts on Ash Wednesday when those ashes are traced on our foreheads in the shape of the cross, a tactile reminder of our origins in the dust. From there we come, and to there we will go.”
Thankfully the significance of the ashes doesn’t end there. Ashes (which were often paired with fasting in scripture) were an external sign of internal grief for personal sins against God and humanity (Jonah 3). They were also an outward symbol of lamenting the tragic brokenness of this world (2 Sam 13:19). Ashes remind us that we are in desperate need of a Savior.
This Savior is the reason we fast for forty days. We fast from the things our flesh desires in order to feast on for the very thing we need the most, Jesus. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus who was lead by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to fast for forty days. It was there that our true King had a showdown with the evil one. This enemy offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world. But Jesus’ loyalty to the Kingdom of God was unwavering. A reminder that Lent is a time to let God’s kingdom gain another square inch of our hearts, minds and lives.
Fast-forward from last Wednesday and now we are talking about the unusual way this kingdom arrived. It may surprise some to learn that the true King of kings wasn’t born within the safe and warm confines of palace walls. He was born into the harsh cruel world he came to save and his life was in danger from the start. Which is why the Lord says, “Get up and take the child…” to Mary and Joseph. Thankfully they take heed of God's warning and “get up and take” Jesus to Egypt and barely escape King Herod’s ruthless genocide of boys in Bethlehem.
But I found Jesus' “unplanned” detour away from Israel a bit frustrating this week. It seems like a huge letdown in the grand scheme of the narrative. "Didn’t God’s people wait long enough for the Messiah to come and as soon as he arrives he is whisked away from their presence?!" Regardless their wait for the Savior must resume. Thankfully after Herod’s death, the true king of Israel finally returns when Mary and Joseph receive another divine message to “get up and take” Jesus to Nazareth.
Ironically we are still there. We are a people who await the return of the one who came to save us. We fast and wear ashes looking forward to the day when sin, brokenness and death will be no more. We live every day with the very real knowledge that we need our Savior to come back. We await the return of the King.
Grace and peace,
Even with traffic reports, caution signs and navigation systems it’s hard to predict what dangers lie ahead. The same could be said of life. Careful planning and preparations will only go so far. In the end we have to admit that even saline eyes fail to see all the obstacles and accidents around us. But Psalm 121 reminds us that the Lord watches over our coming and going both day and night. The providence of God has no blind spots.
Here are four ways to cultivate trust in the providence of God in our daily lives:
1. Begin and end your day in the Word. Stress and anxiety often sets in when life feels out of control. But scripture reminds us that the Lord is in control. Reading a Psalm or two can increase our awareness of a world being ordered by God. Personally I sleep better when I am reminded of that reality.
2. Be still. It is natural for disappointment to set in when a plan falls apart. Finding a quiet space with God can do wonders to how we respond to disappointment and failure in life.
3. Go for a walk with friend. Life was never meant to be a solo endeavor. As strange as it sounds talking with another brother or sister in Christ can make us feel heard by God. Also, having someone to spur us onward can remind us that God is always with us.
4. Write it down. Journaling our prayers and experiences can provide a great release. But my favorite part is going back and reminiscing over those old entries. They often reveal the many ways God was in “the driver's seat” and his plans were better than my plans.