Glimpses of Grace and Truth...The Old Testament reading for last Sunday was Exodus 20, where God gave to Moses and to all humanity, the Ten Commandments. In our culture where we like to “have our own voice” and “make our own decisions,” we don’t want to be commanded what to do or not do. Instead of being commanded to not bear false witness (#9), we’d rather choose when truth is most viable.
But when we think very carefully, about faith and life, we understand that trust fosters good relationships; that God created humanity for good relationships, and that false witness erodes trust and hurts relationships. We may not like being commanded, and may not even like someone “strongly suggesting” what we should or shouldn’t do, but when we think carefully, we agree that God’s ways are always best. And we remember that we don’t break the Ten Commandments any more than we break the law of gravity. If you ignore the law of gravity and jump off a building, you won’t break the law of gravity; you choosing to ignore that law will actually break you. Since God’s intent with the Commandments was to foster good relationships across humanity, ignoring those commands doesn’t mean we are breaking them; it means we’re breaking us and our relationships with one another. To fully understand that, to embrace it and live it out, we must focus our attention on God.
Today, I want to offer two ways to focus our attention on God in Lent. First, you should adjust your time. I am not talking about adjusting your clock for Daylight Savings Time (which is this Saturday night). I’m talking about adjusting your time. In Lent, time matters because of what it means. For instance, we as the Church have set aside forty days—40 not 39, not 50 (that’s Pentecost), not even 7 days—but forty days. Forty reminds us of the forty days Jesus endured the wilderness temptations. Forty reminds us of the forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness. The number 40 is important for us, so we set aside 40 days for Lent (if you do the math from Ash Wednesday, you’ll notice we don’t count Sundays because every Sunday is a miniature Easter). We must “adjust our time” in Lent by noticing the significance of that and so many other elements of Lent, Holy Week and Easter. If we can do that during Lent, then our arrival at Easter’s tomb of Jesus’ resurrection will adjust our time from being so calendar-driven and appointment-focused to having an eternal perspective in all things.
The second way to focus on God for Lent is to practice “Giving Up and Taking Up,” what some call “fasting and feasting.” We can Give Up something that requires too much of our time (maybe television) and Take Up something that needs more of my time (such as prayer). We may give up a few cups of Starbucks and we take up giving to someone in need. We give up some recreational time for individual pursuits so we can take up more time with family or the faith family. Bear in mind that if we choose one of these give up/take up ideas, our intent is not to do it for our own benefit (like giving up ice cream so I can lose weight-that’s a new year’s resolution, not a spiritual discipline). These are meant to help us live out Jesus’ challenge, “All who want to be my followers must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow.” May the sacrificial steps you take in these last few weeks of Lent bring about the abundant joys that Easter has brought God’s people for centuries and centuries. Hope to see you Sunday. And bring a friend.
Sincerely yours in Christ’s service, Ed and the First UMC Family