Turn your hearts to Jesus and be reconciled to him.

What if we really took seriously the charge to turn to Jesus and away from ourselves? During these long days of Spring what if the Lenten discipline we embraced was to turn from focusing in to focusing outward? Even as we set out to abstain from certain foods, drinks, Facebook or whatever—what if we determined that each of those things would cause us to look outwardly? Lent is a time when we are reminded of our mortality. It is a time when we prepare our hearts for my favorite holiday: Easter. Early this morning I read an article on Huffington Post Religion by Rev. Emily Heath. It is an article that convicted, inspired and—ultimately—had me re-write my entire sermon. Here are some of her inspired words:
            “Each Lent I feel myself called back to community, both human and divine.  And when that calling comes, so does the reminder of those two commands of Christ: Love God and love others as you love yourself. For centuries Christians have undertaken a form of Lenten discipline, which is to say a practice that will in some way turn their hearts to Christ and prepare them for the new life that comes with Easter. For many, Lent is a time to give something up: meat or candy or Facebook. But Lent doesn't have to just be about giving up. In fact, at its best it isn't. Because if our Lenten discipline is only about us, and what we will allow ourselves, we miss the point.”
After all, what is the point of Lent? Is the point to see how long we can go without eating a Twix? Or how long we can resist a status update? Or how long we can go without a porter house? Certainly not. Lent is about turning to him. And that turning to him is what our religion is largely about. James reminds us:
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Isn’t that the point: to recommit ourselves to God and not to the world? James says here that undefiled and pure religion is to visit the orphans and widows: living outside of ourselves. It takes the focus from us and puts it where it should rightly be: on others. This Lenten season I challenge you, as Rev. Heath challenged me: abstain from you this Lenten season. Take these forty days to say to self: It is not about you. Take these forty days to turn our eyes back to God. Take these days to turn our eyes to the oppressed. May we say with the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 61 verses 1 and 2: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. He has sent me to tell all of those who mourn the year of the Lord’s favor has come!

May we take this time to really care.  May we take this time to say, “not on my watch!” May we find that injustice, that evil or that wrong and set about correcting it. After all, another prophet reminds us that God has shown to us what is required of us: To do justice (or right wrongs), to love mercy and walk in humility. Micah 6:8. If we spend these forty days saying to ourselves, “Hey look what I can do” (or what I won’t do to be more accurate), I submit that we have succeeded in missing the point.
Let’s read Matthew 25 again: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:35-46 
You see, Lent is about drawing close to him. It is about preparing our hearts for Jesus. Lent is not about us. It is about him and about others. Our entire lives should be spent as he spent his: on others and doing the will of his father in heaven. We look toward Easter; we are the Easter people!
We are the people who know that though things seem bleak. Though the night is dark and the road seems impossible. Yet is there hope for the deepest despair. We are the one who can boldly proclaim: “Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning”
So this Lenten Season, may we: Luke 12:33-34 Sell [our] possessions, and give to the needy. May we provide [ourselves] with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where [our] treasure is, there will [our] heart be also.
May we spend these 40 days making much of Christ and other because that is where our treasure ought lie.
May our hearts turn toward Jesus and be reconciled.
May we forgive more, judge less, increase love, spread peace and inspire hope.
And in remembering our mortality, may we also remember that we are the Easter people and—in Christ— there is hope for despair and gladness for mourning
Powered by Blogger.