Monday, February 19, 2007

The Journey Into Lent

Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said, “I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
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Lent is almost upon us. Only two days remain until Ash Wednesday. This is not a tradition I grew up with. But it is a tradition I am growing to appreciate more and more.

I always thought "those Catholics" (and some Lutherans I knew) were just giving up something as sort of a mock penance or something. So many would say things like, "I gave up chocolate for Lent." And my thoughts were something like, "So what??" I didn't see the point. Nor did it really seem like a true sacrifice to me.

Lent is more about what Christ gives us, though. It is a whole time to focus toward the cross, His sacrifice of love, and, in times of reflection and prayer, what our response should be, in light of all He has done. It's a hard time. It means fasting, in order to spend more time in prayer; more time focused on Him than ourselves. It is a time of allowing the Holy Spirit to do a deep work in our spirit. The habits and sins that are there, needing to be purged from our lives, come into a sharper focus somehow. That does seem like a real "bummer", I guess.

But it is so incredibly freeing to let go of those things. To walk in a newness that we have not previously known. To allow Christ to shape us even more into His image. That we may walk worthy of the cross.

And so you might be wondering, "So what does all of this have to do with the Scripture passage you quoted?" I'm glad you asked!

The segment from Luke was the Gospel reading for this past Sunday. In our pastor's sermon, he focused on the Old Testament reading, too. This was one of the incidents in which Saul was chasing David, in order to kill him. David had a chance to kill Saul, but stood in integrity, refusing to "touch the Lord's anointed". Our pastor pointed out that David was a perfect example of Christ's teaching in Luke.

His words really made me stop and think about people in my life--people I really struggle to deal with in a Christ-like manner. Oh, maybe not on the outside. But in my thoughts, and in my heart, where it really matters. Wow, was I convicted!

Which takes us back to Lent. A friend and I discussed that maybe this is where God is taking us this Lent. To a place of really showing Christ's love, no matter how someone treats us. But not just how we act toward them outwardly. How do we really feel about them in our heart? Do we have Christ's love and compassion?

As I walk through these 40 days of Lent, my prayer is that God will work His love even deeper into my heart. That in my innermost being, there will be a purity of love for Him that overflows into a true, honest love for those around me. No matter what.

Join me on the journey, my friends. You may get to know me a bit better. And may we all draw nearer to our Lord, as He conforms us to His image.

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