Their books are short. They have been labeled the “minor prophets.” And their messages are anything but minor. The prophets are sent to speak God’s Word, to be “loudspeakers” for God—not just in biblical times, but now!—confronting our sin and bringing us to repentance, in order to restore a right relationship with God. Luther doesn’t mince words about the importance of the prophets: “We Christians ought not to be such shameful, satiated, ungrateful know-it-alls, but rather read and use the prophets with earnestness and profit.” OK, then. Let’s get to it!
The Forty days of Lent are meant to offer a break for our hearts. A break from business-as-usual so we can examine our life as we journey to the Cross and Empty Tomb. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said “love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Sounds straightforward… so why do we fall short constantly? The results of our sin are painfully clear…heartbreak. Do we really have a God whose own heart will stop at nothing to save you?
Last week we asked the question: “Can we really focus our heart on God fully and always?” Well, the answer is, no. We can’t. But what about our soul? Surely we can focus our soul, right? The soul is our will. Jesus teaches that we should love God with all our will. All we have to do is love God enough and think about God enough, right? Even if our actions don’t follow fully, can our will be focused enough on God?
In our gospel, we hear that Jesus was full of zeal. How often are we full of zeal for the Lord? Is our mental energy always focused on God’s plan and priorities? How does your zeal put God’s interests first? In John’s gospel, we hear that the moneychangers were always focused on God’s work first…wait… Nope, no they weren’t. They were focused on worldly things and had even substituted those worldly things out for the will and work of God. In what ways is Jesus renewing our minds during Lent?
The only way that a person can really show their strength is through action - actions that either build and encourage… or cause brokenness. How have you had your heartbroken through other’s actions? How have you broken others’ hearts through your actions? How have we broken God’s heart through our actions, or inaction? Have we projected strength in the Lord or in ourselves? Jesus action was to save all creation, through his faithfulness, through his strength. Where do we find strength to build relationships rather than break them apart?
How often do we turn off the news when it’s difficult to hear? How often do we scroll past a social media post about people in need so we don’t have to deal with it? It’s so much easier to ignore those in need than face them. Jesus is pushing through the trouble in his own spirit in order to love others. What ways might we be called to give others something to eat? How might we be called to push through our own doubts, worries, and/or perceived scarcity in order to reach out to others and give them the Bread of Life to eat?
While the world would often prefers to see things as either/or, the way of the Jesus is often found more in a healthy tension expressed by both/and or in the “Messy Middle.” During this 40-day journey of Lent, can we go back to the heart of Christianity as a way of life lived in the tension? It is there in the tensions or paradox, that we find the powerful and mysterious truth, of what it means to be a Christian saint and sinner.
We sin. We turn away from God. There is brokenness. While there is complete forgiveness from God, often there are also consequences of our behavior in terms of relationships, finances, work and our health. We live with the promise of ultimate and true forgiveness and the reality of taking responsibility for our actions. Both are real, both are true. Isaiah 58:1-12, Luke 7:36-43
No longer are saints only those who have climbed the top of the spiritual ladder. We are declared saints entirely because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. And we are, at the same time, sinners, real sinners, who daily must return to the baptismal promise of grace. This is not a 50/50 split but a 100/100 paradox. This is the news that frees us from despair while at the same time offers daily renewal of our faults. We walk each day as a complete saint, righteous for Jesus’ sake. We walk each day as complete sinners, in need of God’s grace. Romans 7, Luke 19:1-10
A gospel story of two sisters. Martha is the sister defined by action. Mary sits at Jesus feet, and is praised by Christ. Does this mean prayer and contemplation is better than action? Or is it both/and? (also, the juxtaposition of this story right after The Good Samaritan speaks to this dichotomy as well) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, Luke 10:38-42
An his letter to the Romans, St. Paul talks about being unable to do the good he wants to do…and at the same time, doing the very things he knows God has commanded us not to do. When we talk about “free will”, is it a matter of trying your best? Clearly freedom has to come from God and not from our efforts. Who will rescue us from this body of sin? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who sets us free by the Spirit. Psalm 51:1-12, Mark 2:13-17
Few things bring a sense of comfort to us more than feeling like we are in control. Whether it’s control over our career, relationships, health, or spiritual life, part of us craves to be at the wheel. While we need to exercise responsibility, life teaches us that complete control is often a myth. Faith asks us to also surrender to the truth that God is ultimately in control and works all things for good. Romans 8:28-32,
The Church is already saved and part of the kingdom of God. In the gospel preached and the Sacraments administered, Jesus is truly present in our community. Christ is already King of Kings, Lord of Lords. At the same time, we long for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We live in the tension of now and not yet. There will come a day. . .just not yet. 2 Peter 3:8-13, Matthew 17:1-9
After Peter confesses that Jesus is Messiah, Jesus responds that those who follow him must deny themselves and take up the cross. It hardly sounds like a path any body would choose for success. But the tension of Lent is that by deny self, we find real joy. By picking up our cross behind Christ, we gain the only real life and glory worth having. His. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Luke 22:24-30