Lenten Reflection (Ash Wednesday)

ImageAs we have sprung into the season of Lent on this Ash Wednesday it begins on a different note for me. Usually this is the first day of my fast from my usual luxuries and indulgences, such as fast food, Starbucks, ice cream, soda, and various other fun food items. This “sacrifice” is meant to draw me nearer to God and carve out a space in which to turn my whole self over to the Almighty. However, much of the time this act of giving up my indulgences turns into an act of false piety. I have probably unconsciously decided that I wanted to give those things up to be healthier during the season of Lent, and less about my relationship with God. In fact, I remember a time in college when I was probably close to 300 pounds and I decided that during Holy Week I would fast from all food. Certainly this began with the best intentions, as the fast got hard, my mind was not disciplined to turn to God in prayer, but rather I turned to consuming the “permitted” juices I allowed myself. That fast, just like many I have begun during Lent, became more about the act of fasting than the fact that I need to be clearing out space in my life for God.

While I have seen many Facebook posts and tweets about the various items my circle of friends are giving up for Lent, I thought long and hard about giving up something for Lent. I knew I wasn’t going to do the usual suspects, because that has become the routine that I wish not to repeat, and besides in the past year many of those things do not have the same grip that they once did. If I were to give up food, I would need to replace that food with something nourishing my body. That led me to the biggest drain on my time, television. It has a weird hold on me, not that I just sit in front of the television and zone out, it is mainly on as background noise, but it diminishes the quality time spent with my loved ones and God. Tonight was the first night that we didn’t turn the television on, and instead I danced with my daughter, had a conversation with my wife, read my Bible, and blogged here. By cutting that one beam of distraction out space was carved out for God to move.

God has not called me to give up television. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice is empty, and it is a luxury that I am “sacrificing”, and it is vital that I understand that God HAS called me to give my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole strength, and my whole self to worship. Let’s remember that, in this season of Lent and beyond. 

Once all the eggs have been found…

So I have been out of the game for far too long. It seems like Ash Wednesday was yesterday, Lent was this morning, Palm Sunday was lunch, and Easter finished five minutes ago. But in our congregation, similar to many congregations, we spoke about the journey toward the cross and the road we take toward a deeper relationship with God through the process of going without during Lent. But that is all done now, because all of the eggs have been found and we can move past that stage in our faith walk for another year. Or can we?

For many of us the journey toward the cross is filled with the reminder of our failures, marks showing us how we have fallen short of the glory of God. But that pain doesn’t tell the whole story, because the story doesn’t end on Friday; but rather death, pain, and our failure are overshadowed and redeemed through God’s victory and the Resurrection of Christ Jesus!

We spend much of our lives alternating between living our lives flaunting our failures and trying to redeem ourselves because we are not worthy.

When we flaunt our failures and are living in the world of  “cheap” grace we are of the mindset that the Easter Egg of Grace should be brightly colored and three-feet in diameter. We know the egg is there and we can turn around and get it at any time, but we are going to do our own thing until it is more convenient.

However, when we view ourselves as not worthy, we are of the mindset that the Easter Egg of Grace should be camouflaged and the size of a pea.  The quest is going to be arduous, and we don’t think it is possible to find the egg because we are so blind from our sinfulness.

Most of the time we are actually in the middle, and see the Easter Egg of Grace as the pink egg above.

But the story tacked on to the end of John is how the Lord reaches out to us, especially after we have finished celebrating the Resurrection.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

 “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The Almighty is calling us to follow. We failed, and we continue to fail, just like Simon Peter, but the Lord calls out to each one of us to do the Kingdom work each day. We have chores we need to get done, the sheep need to be taken care of and fed, the lambs need to be fed, and we need to learn to follow better. The eggs are not hard to find, but we need to follow Jesus to their hiding place, and once we get there we find abundant grace.