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,
Wanna carpool? “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” We weren’t made to travel alone. We need company on the road of life. But traveling with others is not always easy. We need open eyes, hearts and minds to how the Lord wants to speak to us through others. Which often requires trust and compromise. We only need to spend 2 minutes on social media to reach the conclusion that these are vital growth areas for everyone. Here are some spiritual practices I recommend equipping us to live in God’s vision of unity.
Listen to God. Pray Psalm 133. Read and meditate on Ephesians 2:11-18. Here are some helpful questions: What is God telling me in these passages? Who is the Spirit calling me reconcile with in my life? What “walls of hostility” lie between me and others? How does the God of Psalm of 133 and Ephesians 2 want to grow me in love and community? Lift these things up in prayer to the God who makes "one new humanity".
Listen to others. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). We need to be intentional about listening (really listening) to others with a differing viewpoint than own. A mentor taught me to speak last in conversations about a hot topic. I was also taught in my pastoral counseling class that before sharing my view point I ought to repeat what I think I heard from the other person to ensure that I was truly listening. The reality is people want to be heard. When they feel truly heard the likelihood of them listening to us can increase too. This is a foundation piece to all relationships.
Let’s put Jesus first. I remember wincing when I heard about a famous pastor who said, “If there ever is an argument in the church, be sure I’m going to win it!”. But in every conversation the person who should win every time is Jesus. Which means we need to lose arguments and embrace growing in our understanding of God and others. Pretending we know everything is a dangerous fallacy that undermines God’s ongoing work of reforming us according to his good, perfect and pleasing will. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Our teacher, Jesus has so much to teach us. Our program of discipleship is supposed to happen with others. But this is a journey with many growing pains. There will even be moments when we feel discomfort to our pride. But that is the reality of being born again in Christ.
Love. Jesus wins when we communicate truth IN LOVE. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).
Grace and peace,