Jesus

Lent: A Forty Day Journey

As Peter, James and John woke up, a bit startled from their sleep, cobwebs still grasping at their eyelids, they heard a discussion they didn’t quite understand. They saw Jesus glorified, glowing white like snow and flashing like lightning. Moses and Elijah were there two. As these three—Jesus, Moses and Elijah—talked, the subject matter was clear. It was time for Jesus to depart. It was time for his work to be completed. Thus, Jesus and his disciples with him were prepared for the difficult work to come.

Easter is the high point of the Christian church year. It is the time when we celebrate the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior and the completion of Jesus’ saving work. The church has long recognized a need to prepare for this celebration, and therefore Lent has been celebrated since the time of the early church.

Lent is a season of repentance in which we remember the reason that Jesus was born of a virgin and suffered death on the cross, namely, our sin. In this way, Lent serves as a somber time in the church year, but this somber spirit is always hopeful and anticipatory. It looks forward to God’s greatest gift.  It reminds us not only of God’s grace, but of our absolute need for Jesus.

In the early church, Lent was the season in which candidates for Baptism were instructed in the mysteries of the faith, learning such central teachings as the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. In this way, catechetical instruction for the whole congregation during Lent can serve as a reminder of the connection we have with the saints of the early church. (This year we’re going to study the Lord’s Prayer during our Wednesday gatherings.)

During Lent there are many ways in which the penitential nature of the season is accentuated during the worship service. For example, hymns of praise, as well as alleluias, are often omitted. Since Lent accentuates our humility before God as sinners, congregations may invite kneeling during certain parts of the service as a sign of humility and submission. Through this practice, the members are able to involve their whole bodies in the penitential nature of the season.

Despite the penitential nature of Lent and the various reminders of the solemnity of this season, we remain focused on the Gospel of Christ, who is central throughout this season. Lent is to serve as a preparation for the celebration of our salvation on Easter Sunday. In order to prepare for this celebration we are reminded of our absolute need for salvation and our complete inability to save ourselves. Lent reminds us not only of our need for Jesus, but of God’s absolute love for us.

Join us for our Lenten Journey on Sundays at 10 am when we will be looking at the Gospel of Mark.  Or come on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm when we will be looking at the Lord's Prayer, the best prayer ever.

FUN FACTS ABOUT LENT:

Season: Lent (It comes from the Latin word for “spring.”)

Color: Purple/Violet

The Color Symbolizes: The color purple is a sign of both royalty and self-disciplined responsibility. In ancient times it was an expensive color to produce (requiring the “blood” of snails), and therefore it came to symbolize the “richness” of royalty as well as the self-sacrifice required to purchase it. In this way purple became a symbol of repentance.

Length: 40 days (The first recorded reference to the specific number of days in Lent was in 325 AD by the Council of Nicaea.) These forty days take us from Ash Wednesday up until Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. 

 

Chiseled by Jesus.

We are shaped by the people around us.  Our parents, our siblings, our friends, our classmates, our teachers all have a very distinct and powerful impact on who we are, the way we think, even the way we talk.  Parents – you know that it’s true.  You’re starting to sound like your mother or father.

We are shaped by the culture around us.  We live in a great country and it has a very distinct culture.  That culture is blasted at us in TV shows and on Netflix.  That culture is quietly pushed at us through the news and radio.  That culture is even shaped by the laws and mentalities of our nation.  We are profoundly – more than we even know – shaped by the fact that we live here instead of in some other country and in some other part of the world.

As Christians this often means that the way we think and even the things that we believe are often shaped by the Bible and culture, the Bible and family, the Bible and … I think you get the idea.

But what happens when the shaping isn’t so good?  What happens when the world is shaping our thinking, our acting, our feeling in ways that violate God’s way of thinking, acting and feeling?  What happens when we’re taught things at home or in school that directly contradict or quietly circumvent the truth that God has given?

Sadly, Christians are often molded by culture instead of molding culture by their Christianity.  But this isn’t anything new.  In Jesus’ day, the church of Jesus’ day was teaching some things about God’s Word and specifically about God’s commands that weren’t quite what God had in mind.  The thinking and even the teaching of the church had been shaped in a way that violated God’s clear words.

Jesus had some work to do.  He had to clear up some things.  He had to set some things straight so that his disciples would have a clear understanding of the way God wanted them to be and to live in this world. He was chiseling them and shaping them by teaching them to the truth.

I’ll be honest, this next section of the Sermon on the Mount is going to get a little uncomfortable.  Jesus is going to take his chisel to our teachings, to our attitudes, at our hearts, even at our lives.  And it’s going to hurt. But we need it.  Our eternity depends on it.  Jesus says so.  More and more we need to conform our thinking, our feeling, our attitudes, our very lives to the Word and will of God.  It will be painful.  But it will be good for us.

This Sunday we will be studying Matthew 5:27-30.  This section and the others around will profoundly and powerfully shape our thinking and our behaving in this world.

Lord, shape us by your Word.  Lord, help us by your Spirit.  Lord, save us by your Son.  Amen.

Of light bulbs and revelation.

It’s an earth shattering thing when it hits you one day that everything that you knew and understood growing up was wrong.  Yikes!  Your parents were wrong.  Your spiritual leader and care-giver was wrong.  Your religion was wrong.  Your creed was wrong.  All of a sudden, the light bulb went on and you saw where they were wrong and where God was right.

That’s what happened to the apostle Paul when he was on his way to Damascus.  He had grown up a good Jew and did what all good Jews did.  He followed the rules that his parents and the rabbis handed on to him. Except Paul was more than a good Jew. He was a great Jew!  He was not just a follower of Judaism, he was an advocate of Judaism and worked tirelessly and aggressively to put down anything opposed to it. 

And then one day, God rocked his world and showed him the truth.  Then one day, God shook his heart.  In that moment and in the moments that followed, Jesus turned the light bulb on and Paul saw that what he had been taught had all been wrong.  He was trying to be saved by morality, but morality without Jesus is demoralizing and only ends in defeat. In that moment, Paul discovered that everything he had learned was wrong.

Jesus the same thing as he sits down with his disciples and with the church of his day and says, “Let me fill in the gaps for you. Let me help you understand the law and the prophets.  Let me help you understand the Scriptures.  Let me turn the light on for you.”  Already then they were missing some key parts of the Scriptures.  They were teaching some of the Scriptures, but not all of it.  They were teaching morality and ethics, but not grace and redemption.

Too often the Christian church is known for its morality and ethics. And Jesus did teach morals and ethics.  In his morality and ethics, Jesus holds the lie and urges us to toe it.  In fact, he urges us to step our game.

But Jesus has more to teach us.  He’s coming to turn the light on for us, to fill in the gaps, and teach about a greater righteousness than morality and ethics could ever give.  He’s coming to show us a greater path to righteousness than any 4- or 7- or 10-step program ever could. 

“I’m right here,” Jesus quietly proclaims.  “I am the one who fulfills the prophets.  I am the one who accomplishes all righteousness.  I am the one who gives you a righteousness that far surpasses the greatest and saintliest person who ever lived.”

The Sermon on the Mount is not just about morality and ethics.  It’s about Jesus who turns the light on for us and shows us what we’ve been missing all along.  He not only sheds light on the fullness of God’s moral expectations, but he also and especially shines the spotlight on the fullness of God’s grace for us and his redemption of us.  And that’s game changing.

I can’t wait to show you what I mean.  Join us this Sunday as we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:17-20.

Jesus is God's Christmas Letter to Us

At Christmas many people send Christmas letters that detail the lives of their families over the past year. Many will include a family picture along with season's greetings. Some will just send a picture.

This is a nice custom that many have as part of their Christmas celebrations.  They want to fill people in on their lives throughout the past year.  They want us to know how little Johnny is doing in sports.  They want us to know what Margaret is up to as she moves on into High School.  They want us to know how work, family, friends, and life are going.  They want us to know their lives.  They want us to know, to a greater extent, who they are and what they are like.

Of course, this is just a snapshot of their life.

If we really want to know the husband or the wife, we need to talk to their better half.  If we really want to know the kids, we need to talk to the parents.  And if we really want to get to know the parents, we need to talk to their kids.

Throughout the Bible God gives us snapshots of his nature - who he is and what he's like. In fact, the whole Old Testament reveals to us much about who God is and what he is like.  And yet, much was still unknown.  Reading it we can see what he is like and what he is up to, but only dimly.

But then Jesus came.  And  Jesus is God's Christmas letter to us. He reveals the Father to us.  He makes God known to us.  John tells us this:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of graceand truth... Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. - John 1:14, 16-18

In other words, Jesus is God's Christmas letter to us. He is the one who is God himself.  Yes, Jesus is truly God. And, on top of all that, he lives in the closest relationship with the Father.  So, if anyone is going to make God known, it is the Son.  Jesus has come to make the Father known to us.

So, if you want to know God, read his Christmas letter to you.  Get to know his Son, Jesus.  Spend this time after Christmas and your time in the New Year encountering Jesus in his Word.  Spend some time getting to know who he is and what he is like.  Because when you know Jesus, then you know the Father.  When you know Jesus, then you know what the Father is like

This Sunday, we're going to start a brand new series doing just that.  We are going to meet Jesus in his Word.  And we'll never be the same!  The shepherds saw him and returned glorifying and praising God for what they had seen.  Mary treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart.  Simeon was ready to depart in peace.  Anna sang songs and told everyone about him.  The disciples left their nets to follow him.  When people met Jesus and encountered him, their lives changed.  So will ours.