Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#40 Ash Wednesday

God! My God! It’s you—
    I search for you!
    My whole being thirsts for you!
    My body desires you
        in a dry and tired land,
        no water anywhere.  – Ps. 63:1, CEB

Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
    my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When will I come and see God’s face?
My tears have been my food both day and night,
    as people constantly questioned me,
    “Where’s your God now?”  - Ps. 42:1-3, CEB

image from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Today is Ash Wednesday – the 40 day journey of Lent begins today.  On this day we are to be reminded of our sin and be called to repentance.   
As today appears to be shaping up to be a lovely day I thought I might grab a bit of help from the United Methodist Book of Worship to help set the mood:

“The visual environment should be solemn and stark.  Purple is the traditional color throughout Lent; but on Ash Wednesday gray, with its suggestion of ashes, is especially appropriate.  Dark earth colors or any somber hues are also appropriate.  Rough, coarse textures such as burlap – sackcloth and ashes – suggest the character of the day and season.” – UM Book of Worship, 1992 p321 

I hope that you take services today seriously but be reminded that this is also the start of the Christian New Year!  Ash Wednesday begins our journey towards the empty tomb.

For more on Ash Wednesday - watch this video from our friend Chuck

Be blessed this day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

#40 Shrove Tuesday

If I was going to subtitle this post it would be Shrove Tuesday - What I'm giving up for Lent.  Today is Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday if you're a Mardi Gras fan...and technically today is not a day in is often celebrated by many people as a way to "kickoff" the Lenten season - check out this video by Chuck to get a better understanding of Shrove Tuesday:

I hadn't planned on posting today but then I read this post by my friend Kevin Watson (author of the book A Blueprint for Discipleship).  It was this paragraph that pricked my heart:

I am almost tempted to say that United Methodists should fast from doing things for God. Instead, we should relearn how to talk about what God has already done for us. We need to start by telling ourselves about Jesus, about what he has already done for us and which we cannot do for ourselves – practicing it until none of us are embarrassed or hesitant to say the name of Jesus. We need to state clearly that we are all desperate for God’s grace, that without it we are utterly and hopelessly lost.  -  What We Are FOR Isn’t Good Enough, Vital Piety
 Why did this speak to me?  Because this is the heart of what I'm trying to get at here and I realize that I haven't done it.  Essentially the love of God is His grace - that free gift that we have been given and yet we/I have not spoken of it.  I've been so concerned with the "content" of this blog that I haven't posted anything in fear that I might not give the appropriate response - but this is the response - this is what it should be.  God loves us unconditionally!  That's God's love and that's revolutionary - isn't it?  How do we express that?  Action - right?  Sure - and I'm not suggesting that we give up being revolutionary in that way - but why are we doing it?  Kevin says we (as United Methodists) need to be for conversion and holiness.  I know some of you who read this aren't United Methodists and so you're probably thinking that I'm not talking to you - but I am! Let's try and take this outside of the UM circle for a second and see what we get.

We need to be for conversion.  Think about it friends - what good are we doing if we don't do anything for the salvation of those we help?  Isn't that the greatest gift we can give someone?  Jesus Christ.  That is a gift that indeed keeps on giving.  Shouldn't we all be about loving others in a fashion that is indeed Christ. 

Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?                        - Lk. 5:23, CEB

 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” - Matt. 22:37-40, CEB

Do you see that?  Loving God and the forgiveness of sins is first!  It is an integral part of loving as Christ loved!

We need to be for holiness.  I know those of you who aren't UM are starting to shy away from this - but don't leave me now! We need to be for holiness - see if we don't express God's love in all that we do then we are no different from everyone else.  We are indeed sinners saved by the grace of God and it is that gift of grace that makes us different!  It is that gift of grace that we should be preaching!  That is the love of God!  I am not suggesting that we are unavoidably stuck in a grace trap - but instead we are simply entangled in a grace blanket.  We are wrapped up in grace and it's a free gift that has been offered to us.

So what am I giving up for Lent this year?  Silence.  I'm giving up being quiet about grace.  I'm giving up being quiet about Jesus' love for us.  Why?  Because that is his love for us - that is the revolution!  It's free grace, it's a call to Christian Perfection.  That being said - it's time to say it - if it offends you - I apologize and I love you but the call to Christan Perfection is a vital part of the Christian lifestyle.

If you don't know what I'm talking about I'd suggest you read some information on Christian Perfection from The Wesley Center and weigh it evenly.  Ask yourself this question - does God not call us to love?