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It's about Jesus

Lent is 40 days long (not counting Sundays, because every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection). It is 40 days because Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days. The Church, as the body of Christ, does what Jesus does. If Jesus goes out to face the Devil and temptations, we do too—trusting that Jesus has already overcome all forces of evil and given us the courage!

Lent is a time to reflect how far we have strayed from the path of following Jesus, both individually and organizationally. It is always a temptation to allow other forces and interests distract us. Even well-meaning and helpful forces can pull our eyes off the one we follow.

For example, giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent is very traditional, and may even lead to healthier practices. But are “healthy practices” the same as following Jesus? If Jesus isn’t involved in your thinking, the practice, and the results, then, I don’t think so. However, if you feel that you can’t live without chocolate or alcohol, then perhaps they draw you away from God. Here’s where Jesus comes in: Jesus came to free us from those things and forces that have deceived us into thinking we can’t live without them. It is the living Christ that gives us the courage to give up that thing or habit. When the craving for that thing hits, we hit our knees and ask God to satisfy that craving. When we don’t feel the craving anymore, we give thanks and praise to God!

Organizationally, the church often has special Lenten offerings. Can you articulate how giving is motivated by following Jesus? This Lent, people will have opportunity to give at the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, the Wednesday Soup Suppers, and the Chili supper/basket raffle on Mar 2. All of these donations will all go for scholarships so women can attend retreats, conference and national gatherings. This is surely a great cause to help women attend events they otherwise might not. But are we clear how they connect to following Jesus? (I think they do, but challenge you to think about all your giving and how it is connected in your mind and practice to following Jesus. One place to start is with the idea in our culture that we can’t live without money; see the discussion above about what we do in Lent when we think we can’t live without something other than God.)

The risk today, especially as the Christian Church around the world is undergoing massive changes, is that we become just another social group. Our society needs groups who help support healthy living. Our country needs a spirit of generosity that encourages giving so people can have opportunities like retreats that they couldn’t otherwise afford. That’s all true.

But the Church is not a social club for healthy living or charitable opportunities. The Church is the Body of Christ, who died to take away the Sin of humanity and bring humanity into an eternal relationship with its Creator. If we lose this focus, congregations will fade away just like every social club eventually does. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, pray and worship through him, study his Word, gather with his people in order to follow him, relate with God through him, and go where he leads us, he won’t steer us wrong.

This Lent, I encourage you to consider your path, why you do what you do, not just at church but in every decision from paying the bills to grocery shopping to watching TV or internet: how does everything relate to Jesus?

Glad to be following Jesus with you,

Pastor Peter


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