Lent – Friday, Day 15

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold” Ps 73:2

Introduction

In our efforts to follow Christ, we can become discouraged by the lack of concern with the things of God in our culture.  It’s simplistic to believe that everyone else has an easy life, free from worry or concerns.  It may be tempting to abandon the pursuit of God for a more care-free life, but the ultimate test comes at the end.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. (Rom. 12:21)

Scripture

Psalm 73

I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from the burdens common to men; they are not plagued by human ills.  Therefore pride is their necklace. . . They say, “How can God know?  Does the Most High have knowledge?  This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. . . When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. . . As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. . .

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. . . Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Reflection

I watched a group of teenagers standing at the bus stop on the coldest day of the winter.  They looked good: finely tuned bodies, smooth skin, long, lustrous hair, fashionable shoes.  But it was all wrong for the weather.  They were not prepared for the cold, rather, they were on display like mannequins in a store window.  “They are the immortals,” I said to my husband as we drove by.  “They think they’ll live forever.”

“The immortals” is a code name we’ve adopted to stand for the young, beautiful people of the world who live a carefree life, oblivious to time and aging.  I envy them.  I envy myself at that age.  Yet, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t return to my youth.  It was filled with angst and fear.  “What am I going to do with my life?  Will I ever find true love?  Will I ever get a job?  Will I make enough money to live on my own?  Can I buy a house?  Am I attractive?  Am I popular?  What are people saying about me?”   It was exhausting.  I wonder how many people realized all that was going on under the surface of my carefree façade?

A pastor commented on the sermon of young seminary student: “He was full of passion and enthusiasm, but he lacks an understanding of the needs of the people he is addressing.”  It’s easy to assume that because someone smiles and seems “together” that they have no needs.  Everyone has a story; we all know worry, disappointment and regret, regardless of our age. The Psalmist fretted over the “wicked” until he entered the “sanctuary of the Lord”, taking his eyes off his problems and focusing on God, the one who guides us safely through the maze of our lives, to the place where we will all be “immortals.”

altar
Prayer

Lord, it is easy to envy those around us and assume they have it easier than we do.  When we focus on what we do not have, we lose sight of your blessings.  We know that our true treasure lies in knowing and trusting you to keep us safe and lead us home to eternal life. Amen

Lent – Thursday, Day 14

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

Introduction

While many of us are blind to our sinful attitudes, others experience a weight of guilt they can never release.  Martin Luther would confess his sins for hours, beating himself to bring his flesh under control.  His confessor is reported to have sent him away saying, “Martin… Go out and kill someone… Then come back and confess… when you have something to confess!” It took the revelation of the power of God’s grace through faith to release Luther from his bondage.

Scripture

Romans 2:12-16

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

John 5:24-29

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

Reflection

repentant-child

One summer we were caring for our two grandchildren while their parents were on a much needed vacation. Daily chores proved to be my undoing as I continued to repeat the expectations endlessly, to no effect.  At one point I lost my temper when they began pulling items out of the recycling bin that I had discarded.  One child walked away, ignoring my rebuff; the other child quietly began to cry.  She had spotted an accessory for one of her stuffed animals in the bin.  To me it had looked like garbage; for her it was a treasure.  “Why didn’t you tell me,” I asked.  “Because I was afraid you would spank me,” she sighed as tears streaked her cheeks.  “I would never lay a finger on you.  I just wanted you to listen to me,” I replied as I held her close and asked for her forgiveness.  It is interesting to note, that the other child, the one who provoked the anger, didn’t even notice that he had been threatened.  No apology needed.

We all have a different tolerance for sin.  Some have very tender consciences that need no reminders.  They are fully capable of pointing out every offense, no matter how small. They need reassurance that God forgives them, even though they feel unworthy.  For those with robust personalities, it may take much more to provoke a confession.  Those individuals may experience the fire of unexpected consequences before they wake up to their need for forgiveness and conversion.

Regardless of your personality, we have the assurance that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and will forgive.  We learn to leave it with him and start fresh each day.  He gives forgiveness and eternal life.  No one is righteous apart from him, whether or not we have a tender conscience.

Prayer

Lord, we all sin and fall short of your perfection.  Thank you that you are always ready to forgive, whether our sins are few or many.  We are ashamed to keep coming back with repeated offenses; help us to surrender them to you and accept your grace. Amen.

bonhoeffer

Lent – Wednesday, Day 13

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes..”
Song of Solomon 2:15

Introduction

Sin is seductive and deceptive.  Few would fall to felonies such as murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, or fraud, but our readings for today let us know that it is the “little sins” that can destroy our faith. Before it has a chance to produce fruit, the little foxes eat the fresh shoots in the vineyard.  So too, the sins we excuse can easily separate us from God, keeping us from enjoying the fullness of peace.

Scripture

Romans 1:28-30

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

John 5:8-15

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Reflection

cookies

My mother used to bake on Saturday mornings when I was growing up.  While I appreciated the smell and delicious taste of melted butter on hot bread and rolls, my downfall was the chocolate chip cookies. Somehow, knowing that they were for my lunch the following week didn’t detour me from sneaking one or two while they were still hot and cooling on the counter.  I was scolded for the practice, and I promised that I wouldn’t take any, but inevitably I fell to temptation.  I learned to divert blame by accusing my younger siblings, so to the stealing I added lies.

It’s easy to excuse these little indiscretions as harmless antics of children, but it goes to the heart of integrity.  How much do we excuse in ourselves?  The lame man was warned to “stop sinning” after he was healed, “or something worse may happen.”  The list of sins that result in death, described in Romans 1, includes gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance and pride.  These seemingly innocent sins form habits that are destructive of our character and become “ugly” attitudes.  People watch us, and if we claim to be a Christian while speaking ill of another person, it is a reflection on our faith and cheapens the message.  It also keeps us from demonstrating the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  We are to be above reproach.

With such a high standard, it may be easy to give up entirely and say, “who then can be saved?”  Perhaps that’s the point of the discussion—no one is righteous, not even the “nice” people of the world.  So, before we judge the felon, we need to look at our own hearts and realize that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Prayer

Lord, we easily excuse our faults and hurtful attitudes while judging others. Forgive us for cheapening your grace by the way we continue in our sin.  We cannot change ourselves; we come to the cross for forgiveness.  Help us surrender our “harmless” sins.  Amen.

foxes

Lent – Tuesday, Day 12

“We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”
― Martin Luther

 

Introduction

“Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore, be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools.” (Martin Luther commentary on Romans)

Scripture

Jeremiah 2:11-13

11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols.
12 Be appalled at this, you heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord.
13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Romans 1:16-25

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.

Reflection

luther

The protestant reformation was born out of Martin Luther’s study of the book of Romans.  Our scripture passage, “The righteous will live by faith”, or sola fide (faith alone), toppled the religious hierarchy of the day, much as Jesus’s ministry exploded the “old wineskins” of the Jewish faith.  Prophets and reformers do not seek to deliberately destroy the traditions, but rather hope to breathe new life into old and tired forms of religion that have lost their meaning through neglect and reinterpretation.

I had the privilege of starting a new program in my school board.  For several months I fielded phone calls from parents who felt disconnected from the system and were looking for alternatives.  I researched current trends, met with respected educators, visited charter schools, and attended countless community meetings.  Finally, after several months, we launched a new program that is still active and growing 20 years later.  Unfortunately, many of the original ideas were replicated with little or no understanding of the purpose.  This resulted in hollow practices that were easily discarded by succeeding administrators.

The people of God are susceptible to thoughtless change if they lose site of God’s original purpose.  They “exchange their glorious God for worthless idols” that are steeped in culture and tradition.  Each generation needs to be reborn by the spirit to experience the power and grace of God afresh.  It has been said that God has no grandchildren.

Prayer

Lord, we live by scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone (Martin Luther).  We are tempted to pick and chose the elements of our faith based on tradition and personal preference.  Help us not to lose site of the core of the gospel that places Jesus at the center with us reliant on his grace.  Amen.

Lent – Monday, Day 11

“We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves,

and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” Jn. 4:42

Introduction

The early church understood that God had made a way for all nations to be adopted as children of God.  Through the centuries this message has been carried to the ends of the world and it continues to be spread to this day.  There are many critics who point to the sins of the church and the abuses of colonialism as a way to minimize the work of missions.  Yet, in spite of our flawed and at times, sinful, inadequacies, the good news reaches the hearts of those who are seeking God.

Scripture

Romans 1:1-15

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

John 4:39-42

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Reflection

In the 19th century there was an explosion of English Protestant missionary activity around the world.  William Carey, the father of missions, went to India as a translator and printer.  David Livingstone explored Africa as a doctor and mapped much of the continent.  George Muller started faith missions and took in over 10,000 orphans in England.  Hudson Taylor spent more than 50 years in China; Amy Carmichael served 56 years in India.  Their stories and pioneer efforts inspired generations of young people to go “into all the world” with the message of Jesus.

The great commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” has not been revoked.  It remains our primary mission as the church.  There are still unreached people groups who have never had the opportunity to respond to the good news. Today the focus has changed from sending out missionaries to do the work of evangelism, to working with believers within each culture.  Education, medicine, Bible translation have all been effective tools in reaching the world.  The goal is no longer to colonize, exploit, and assimilate, but rather, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread”. (D.T. NILES, New York Times, May 11, 1986). 

With the explosion of the internet, and the accessibility of smart technology, it is becoming easier for seekers to find answers without leaving their homes.  More importantly, God has opened the door, through immigration, for the world to come to us.  Our inner city schools are filled with first and second generation children from around the world, eager to make a better life.  It is our responsibility to demonstrate grace and love and hope rather than racism and discrimination.  It is God who does the work in people’s lives.  It is our calling to love.

Prayer

Lord, let us demonstrate your love to those around us in such a way that they may see the beauty of Jesus.  We leave the work of transformation in your hands; help us to be faithful to your calling and to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi  Amen

change

Lent – Saturday Day 10

You shall teach them to your children.Deut. 11:19

Introduction

Jesus ushered in a new and living way to meet with God.  Spirituality was available to all.  It moved from being the domain of priests and prophets to the hearts of all believers.  The Holy Spirit and scripture are open to anyone who is thirsty for God, and access is not limited to church or a temple.  With the priesthood of all believers, our home is a place to teach, pray, grow and experience God.

Scripture

Deuteronomy 11:18-19

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Hebrews 5:1-10

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. . .In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

John 4:13-25

13 Jesus said to [the Samaritan woman at the well], “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

.23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Reflection

A child will repeat catch phrases to younger siblings that they have heard from their parents like “It will be OK, just wait a minute”, “No buy, no cry”, “That’s not a good choice”, or “I’m going to count to three.”  They absorb our attitude towards authority, our values, and our perspective.  All parents want the best for their children, and they often make sacrifices to give them opportunities that they never had growing up.  A full schedule seems like good parenting, but is it meeting all their needs?

 

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to draw water from the well.  For her it was a physical act that she did every day; for Jesus it was an invitation to teach her about the “living water”.  She could satisfy the body; He could satisfy the soul.  In our effort to provide for our children, how much time do we give to providing for their spiritual needs?

 

My grandson prayed for his cousin who had a high fever.  Before the prayer was finished, his mother received a phone call saying, “It’s going to be OK.”  “See Daddy, we prayed and Jesus made him all better.”  This child is learning that God exists and that He is the source of healing, comfort and hope.  Our challenge is to invite God into our home through conversation, prayer and Bible reading so when the storms of life come, they know where to turn.

 

Prayer

Lord, we are comfortable providing for the physical and social needs of our loved ones, but we often shy away from bringing you into our conversations.  Help us to look for ways to nurture our spiritual needs. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”  Amen

Lent – Friday, Day 9

[Our] chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” (Westminster Confession)

Introduction

God created us to enjoy him and delight in his masterpiece.  That is often forgotten because of sin and death and alienation.  Jesus came to reunite us with that original purpose and to return us to the joy of living.  His first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding.  John the Baptist described him as the bridegroom.  We are his bride.  Accepting Christ joins us to that original purpose of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Scripture

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-22

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.

John 3:27-30

27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Reflection

God’s ultimate purpose is to restore us to fellowship with him so we can live in the fullness of joy intended for us at creation.  We lose our focus because of the unpredictability of life’s circumstances.  Sin and unbelief make us susceptible to alienation from our creator, but Jesus came to reconnect us to the eternal and invite us back into joy.  When we look at the faithfulness and love or our unchanging God, we can delight in the beauty of this life and experience his pleasure. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36)

The Source

Ice floats under the bridge, escaping the snow-capped Rockies on its journey to the ocean,

Ever changing, ever the same, the flow of time from the source to the destination;

Alpha and Omega eternally linked by the living water.

I stand at a single moment, susceptible to the forces of change,

Helpless to affect the flow.

“I lift my eyes unto the hills from whence does my help come?”

Time scars the riverbed and distracts my focus, but at this moment,

I stand above the circumstances, delighting in the privilege of being present in the now.

Prayer

mountains.jpg

Lord, you are delighted to share the beauty of creation with us.  We are your bride, showered with love and privilege.  When we acknowledge that we come from you, live through you and ultimately return to you, we can rest in that love.  As children, we experience the joy of being alive. All glory and praise to you our Christ.  Amen

Lent – Thursday Day 8

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Heb. 4:7

Introduction

When creation was completed, God rested and looked on all that He had done, and “it was very good” (tov me’ode).  We are invited into God’s rest as we trust Him to save and keep us.  We are warned not to harden our hearts to His still small voice, or we may hear the warning to the people of Israel, “You shall not rest” (Heb. 4:5).

Scripture

Heb 4:1-10

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “As in my anger I swore, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” though his works were finished at the foundation of the world. For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

Reflection

When I have an appointment, I can become restless and anxious as I pace, go for long walks, or flitter from one mindless activity to another.  It comes from a place of uncertainty and misapprehension—I’m never sure how it will turn out.  However, as soon as I’ve come through the event, there is almost a euphoric sense of peace.  I scold myself for being nervous and shrug off my previous mistrust with a sigh of relief.  If only I could transpose the peace from the end to the beginning.

God invites us to rest in him, but we find it hard to surrender. Creation completed, God saw that there was nothing more to add and he looked around and saw that it was “tov me’ode”—very good.

“Tov me’ode”

The swirling disruptive artistry of creation complete, God rested.

It is finished. 

And He saw that it was very good – “Tov me’ode”.

The moment between creation and rest.

He waits for me there.

It is the moment I surrender to His peace.

Prayer

Lord, I am often guilty of relying on myself to find inner peace.  There is restlessness and uncertainty if I face life’s challenges alone. You are trustworthy.  Let me enter that rest and declare, “tov me’ode”—it is very good.  Amen

Lent – Tuesday day 6

“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 2:5

Introduction

Old Testament images are transformed by Jesus.  He equated his body to the temple.  Peter referred to the people of God as the spiritual stones and the Apostle Paul equated our bodies to temples of the holy spirit.  It is no wonder that Jesus was angry that the physical temple had been perverted into a marketplace, devoid of its original purpose.  He transformed brick and mortar into a spiritual house where we could meditate and meet God.

Scripture

Heb.3:3-6

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.  For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Ps.48:9, 14

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. . . For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Jn 2:14-22

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.  And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen.  And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their temples.  And he told those who sold the pigeons.  “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”  His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” . . . He was speaking about the temple of his body.

Reflection

Three workers were queried about their tasks.  The first one said, “I’m working here on construction.  I get my wages at the end of the day, and I go home.”  The second one was a craftsman.  “I am using my craft to complete this work.  I take pride in my skills and it shows.”  The final man, understanding the intent, declared, “I’m building a cathedral.”

Our lives can be much like those three workers.  We can go about our daily business, meeting our obligations, not putting much thought into our meaning or purpose.  Or, we can focus on honing our skills—keying on self-improvement and professional development.  Fulfillment is found in a job well done.  Yet Jesus has a higher calling for us—he wants to build a cathedral.

As a teacher I often thought of that parable as I worked with adolescents.  It was a challenge to see my work as “cathedral-building” at the end of the day when my energy and enthusiasm were waning.  Yet, having that perspective prevented me from giving up and doing the bare minimum.  When we understand that we are called by God to be living stones in his temple, it sets a higher standard.  Ultimately, we are responsible to only him for what we do.

Prayer

Lord, it is easy for us to forget that we are the temple of the holy spirit.  Our daily routines are often devoid of joy and meaning when we see them as drudgery rather than a higher calling.  Help us see our lives as cathedral building. Amen.

Lent – Monday day 5

 

“You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Rom. 8:15

Introduction

Jesus came to set us free from sin and death and give us an abundant life.  Just as he provided for his people in the wilderness under the most trying of circumstances, he wants to lavish his riches on us, beginning with peace of mind—an outcome of being made right with God.

Scripture

Deuteronomy 8:15-20

He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Rom 7:24

O wretch that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Rom. 8:15

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”. 

 

Hebrews 2:14-15

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Reflection

“The Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and a pioneer in the worldwide Christian contemplative prayer movement, popularized what is now known as centering prayer, a method of silent prayer that allows one to rest in the presence of God.” (NY Times, Oct 2018)  His belief in the love and provision of God allowed him to confidently declare, “If we really trust God, we don’t have a care in the world.” 

20181114_091518Where does that assurance come from?  Much of our time and imagination is consumed with overcoming our fears.  I heard a generation Xer assert, “What we worry about changes over time; the constant is that we worry.”  Whether it be the most basic of needs for economic security or the more esoterical needs for meaning and deliverance from the fear of death, our minds fixate on the “what ifs.” Depression can lead a person to dark thoughts that never go away.  “O wretch that I am!  who can deliver me from this body of death?”  The gospel responds: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:56-57)

Jesus came to connect us with our creator who lavished riches and love upon us.  As the Hebrew Bible puts it, “In the beginning God saw that it was “tov me’ode” (very good).  In pride and self-centeredness, we broke that relationship and experienced separation from the good.  Fear and death entered the world. Through the resurrection of Jesus, we see that we can be free from that fear.  Sin no longer rules; death is defeated.  We are invited to call God “Abba” (Father).

Prayer

Lord, we do not need to be afraid.  You have come to give us an abundant life of joy and hope.  The enemy of our souls reminds us that we are mortal: susceptible to death and want.  You tell us that we are forgiven, loved, and guaranteed eternal life.  Let us live in that assurance.  Amen.