Parades of Honor, Shame, and Paradise

Parades of Honor Shame and ParadiseA reflection for Palm/Passion Sunday after the congregational reading of the passion story in Luke 22:14-23:56 on April 14, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

Our story today began with a parade of Jesus’ triumph. His followers who travelled with him from Bethany and Galilee, witnesses and recipients of his healing, hailed him as their king and Lord. A triumphal entry into the city is the greatest tribute accorded anyone in a culture where honor and shame, even more than money, were the greatest personal currency.

It did not take long, however, for those accolades to threaten the powers that be, who wanted such tributes sung about them, rather than some upstart rabbi from the backwaters of Galilee. If that continued, what would happen to the religious leaders? To their authority? To their power?

The religious and political leaders were afraid of losing—losing honor and power, so much so, they kicked it into high hear to get rid of Jesus. They set out to re-balance the honor-shame scale by shaming Jesus in the most extreme way. If the greatest honor is triumphal parade, the greatest shame is the criminal’s procession, carrying his own cross to his death. Two kinds of parades—one giving the greatest honor, one filled with most shame.

When the triumphal parade with palms and honor on Sunday turned into the parade of cross-carrying shame on Friday, the reversal was so successful that even those who loved and followed Jesus were affected by it. Like the leaders, they all became afraid of losing something as the story played out.

Judas was afraid of not having enough money. Peter was afraid of losing his life—of being treated the way Jesus was. James and John, the sons of thunder were probably tired of losing face—of being mocked and ridiculed—and angry at Jesus for not fighting back. They believed when push came to shove (literally) that Jesus would let them use their swords, but he did not. Other disciples feared loneliness—what were they going to do without Jesus, without this community of friends traveling and working together? 

Still others, like Matthew—a hated tax collector, were losing a sense of purpose and worth which they had with Jesus for the first time in their life, and it was all falling apart. Who was he going to be now? Others were losing the most important relationship they ever had—they were broken-hearted with grief. How could they bear to watch someone they loved die? So, they scattered—shame worked—they betrayed, denied and abandoned Jesus.

It seemed like hope was losing and those in power were succeeding in setting the honor/shame scales back in their favor, but in reality, Jesus had his own parade going on. Jesus used their schemes to enact God’s plan of salvation and we see this at every stop in the story.

In his procession to the cross—Jesus saw the women weeping and he stopped to acknowledge them, and speak to them—to their pain, their loss, their fear of losing him, their agony.

In that moment, it is as if time stood still. Jesus acknowledged all human pain—all of the weeping, betrayal, denial, abandonment, loss, fear, and failure, including our own—as if to say, “This is not as it appears! You are not losing, and all is not lost! This is not the end, shame is not the story, and pain is not final! Watch for the the real parade, the parade to paradise!”

Then from the cross, Jesus does not accept the shame, mocking, and ridicule others try to put on him. Instead he sees their shame, their brokenness, their sin, in all of its ugly cruelty, and—with words not of shame and judgement, but rather of love, abundance, and peace, he prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those with the eyes to see can behold the real parade he’s leading to paradise.

Then the scene shifts to the criminals hanging with Jesus and they both articulate part of what we all want. The first one asks to be saved by being spared suffering—have we not all asked God for that? But that’s not how God saves—God enters into the fullness of human life rather than rescuing us from it. So, the second criminal says, “remember me when you come into your kingdom—be with me, save me, forgive me and bring me into your heart, Jesus.” And Jesus does: “today you will be with me in paradise.” The real parade is marching forward.

Those in power thought they were winning the battle as they exchanged a parade of honor for one of shame and death, when in reality, the God of the cosmos, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, hung above the theater of this human drama, and in Jesus Christ, offered abundant love and wholeness and new life for all.

Jesus is leading a parade to paradise—that’s the only parade that matters—and we are blessed to be counted in that number!



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Offering Our Extravagant Love to Jesus

Our Extravagant Love for JesusA sermon preached for the 5th Sunday in Lent on John 12:1-8 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. We also dedicated 65 quilts, 65 personal care kits, and 62 baby care kits for Lutheran World Relief made by the women's group and ended the service with a blessing of the new Great Achievers Preschool in our education wing.

My husband’s best friend, Phil, is also a pastor. Several years ago, Phil’s mom was dying, and she was receiving hospice care at home. Phil and his mom had a very challenging relationship—there’s no need to go into detail, but she had problems and just was not the best mom. She could not show up for Phil in the way that most moms could and would.

It was a Friday afternoon and Phil left his work at church to drive home to see how she was doing, arriving about 4:30 in the afternoon. The hospice nurse left at 5 and wouldn’t be back until morning. As happens when one is in the dying process, Phil’s mom soiled herself and the bed. Phil called hospice and asked if they could come back and help him, but they said that unless his mom needed medication, they could not return until the next day. His brother was working; his dad had died. Phil was on his own.

Phil returned to his Mom’s bedside and said, “Well, Mom, it’s just you and me. I guess you wiped my behind 100 times before, and now it’s my turn to wipe yours.” They looked each other in the eye and burst out laughing. And then he cleaned her up.

She died two days later. Phil shared that it was such a healing moment—it stripped everything else away and brought them down to their bare humanity, to forgiveness, and the chance to die receiving deep love.

Mary offers this kind of deep love to Jesus before he faces his own death. Mary pours expensive spikenard on Jesus’s feet and wipes them with her hair—a sign of anointing. Such anointing is an act done only for the coronation of a king, or for someone being prepared for burial.

Jesus of course, is both. He is the king of the Jews, through whom he has come to save all nations, the true Messiah who will begin his reign, not with a display of mighty power to overthrow the Roman oppressor, but rather, by taking on the worst of human violence, and entering death to show us that not even the most evil aspects of our brokenness can separate us from God, nor stop God from loving us.

But before Jesus can endure that kind of deep suffering, before he can enter Jerusalem and be that kind of king who dies to bring life, he needs to be deeply loved. Mary offered him a healing moment of extravagant love that stripped everything else away, and recognized Jesus’s bare humanity in what he had to endure, offering him the chance not just to love others, but to die receiving deep love.

Can you imagine that as he hung dying on the cross, the musky smell of the rich spikenard oil still wafting up into his nostrils, a physical message of deep love in the midst of devastating suffering; a visceral reminder that someone understood, that one disciple gave herself extravagantly to him, that his humanity was embraced, that he was not alone?

That is Mary’s gift to Jesus and to us. Of course, we are on the receiving end of God’s love in Jesus—always, every day, every breath, every flower, each new sunrise, every meal, every kind word, each person who loves us, every morsel of Communion, every loyal pet, each choir anthem and transcendent piece of music, every mistake forgiven—God in Jesus Christ is dying to shower us with love. But Mary shows us that Jesus also needs us and wants us to extravagantly love him back, giving him our best, our all, despite what others might think.

Mary ignores Judas, and Jesus receives her love, helping him prepare for his suffering and death in the days ahead, and sustaining him when he most needs it. Her love enables him to love his disciples even knowing they would betray, deny, and abandon him. Just as she wiped his feet, a few days later, Jesus washed and wiped the disciple’s feet in a similar act of extravagant love, asking them to love others as he has loved them, as Mary has loved him.

Have you ever looked at Mary’s action and wondered what Jesus needs from you? What kind of extravagant love? What service? What devotion does he need from you to do the kingdom work ahead? Mary shows us that your love for Jesus matters, your devotion, your willingness to give and serve, your willingness to seek out and offer what is needed matters to Christ the King—who chooses to work through relationships, through human beings, through Mary, through Phil, through you.

Jesus needed Phil’s extravagant love so his mom could experience forgiveness before she died—not because she deserved it, because none of us do. Phil has received God’s love, and he loved Jesus enough to offer extravagant love to his mom in that moment of uncomfortable need. And the clean, musky smell of forgiveness could waft up into her nostrils in death.

The women of this church stitched, purchased, sewed, and created all these personal care kits, and baby kits, and quilts because Jesus already loves you, and these are signs of your extravagant devotion, service, and love for Jesus in return. Jesus will use them to bless people you will never meet—people in refugee camps and recovering from natural disasters here and around the world. Stripped of everything, our common humanity is recognized in the need for basic supplies. A family will receive a homemade quilt, a hand-stitched baby onesie or crocheted sweater and they will know—they will know that someone loves Jesus extravagantly enough to anoint them with the rich, musky smell of fresh blessings during suffering.

Today we are going to bless Great Achievers Preschool, another way for us to extend the extravagant love of God, by building relationships with the families in our community, anointing children with extravagant love, teaching and loving children who are not our own. And oh, the wiping that needs to be done! Smelly bottoms and runny noses, dirty hands and sticky mouths, sweaty foreheads and teary cheeks, all the while trying to keep up with fast feet, quick minds, and pure hearts. Children help strip us bare—reminding us what is essential in our common humanity. It takes deep love to open a preschool; it takes extravagant patience to teach toddlers; it takes expansive hearts to welcome families with noisy, little ones, but I know you love Jesus extravagantly enough to scoop them up with your whole heart and embrace them with the musky smell of your devotion to the kingdom work at hand.

And the poor. What are we going to do about the poor? Some think this passage gets us off the hook—they will always be here, so apathy and inaction in the face of poverty is okay. But I know you don’t really think that is what Jesus meant! Such bad interpretation sounds just like Judas—only to serve our own ends. The indicative verb for “you will always have” is the same verb form as an imperative. So instead of a description of the state of being (that the poor are always with us), Jesus is more likely to be giving a command, as in, "Keep the poor among you always." Jesus is saying, “I am going away—I am not going to be here much longer, so continue my mission: keep the poor among you always and tend to their needs.”

So, what does Jesus need from you? What extravagant love? What service? What devotion does he need from you to do the kingdom work ahead? Jesus says, “Love me abundantly by taking care of the poor, the children, and those in need. Bring them justice, and make their life better; love them as I have loved you. Help the undeserving. Forgive the unforgiveable. Give me your best, your all, your everything, so that those who suffer might experience the musky, rich fragrance of the God who comes to them through a people who love their Lord with extravagant devotion.”

 Image: I Cried for You by Nik Helbig


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God's Fierce and Tender Love Calls Us to Fierce and Tender Ministry

Gods Fierce and Tender Love Calls Us to Fierce and Tender MinistryA sermon preached for the Second Sunday in Lent on Luke 13:31-35 on March 17, 2019 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

Paula D’Arcy is a Christian author and inspirational speaker. At age twety-seven, she was pregnant with her second daughter when a drunk driver struck and killed her husband and her first daughter who was two years old. She tells the story of being in the hospital 6 months after this terrible tragedy, to give birth, and praying to God to please give her a natural birth, so she could experience life after so much death.

Although she wanted to trust God as the foundation of her life, in that moment, she wanted God to prove himself by granting this one desire. In her grief, she had struggled in her relationship with God and wanted to feel loved and less alone. After several hours of labor, it looked like her desire for a natural birth was not going to happen, and she was minutes from having a C-section. She prayed, “What do you want from me, God? You already have everything-you have my husband, you have my daughter—what more do you want?”

Paula heard in her own heart God’s response. God said to her, I want you to want me more than you want anything else. I want to transform your pain. I want you to give your whole self to me. Paula looked down at her hands and realized that she had been holding on to life as she wanted it, and the grip of her desires had closed her off from God doing what she most needed, which was to transform her pain into new life.

She released her hands and opened her whole self to God; a moment that became a turning point in her spiritual journey. Both the fierce and the tender love of God enveloped all of her—even her angry, bargaining, scorekeeping, fearful, distraught, birth-giving, complex, grieving self. God’s fierce and tender love embraced all of her.

In our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus embody both the fierce and the tender love of God. The pharisees tell him that Herod has threatened his life and Jesus responds with a fierceness that might have sounded as startling to them as it does to us. “you tell that fox, Herod, that I’m going to finish what I came to do—I am healing and casting out demons and no matter who you are, what you say, or what you do, I am going to complete my work. I am going to be on my way, but it’s not because of you or your idle threats, it’s because my purpose will take me to Jerusalem.” Jesus expresses a clarity of purpose and mission, and no obstacle—not even death threats, nor death itself—is going to deter him.

Yet in the next sentence, we hear one of the most tender, loving and maternal passages in all of Scripture, expressing Jesus’s weeping lament of broken-hearted love over those who will not turn toward him in trust to hide and rest under God’s protection and love. Jesus’s love is so tender, so healing, so mothering, and so all-encompassing—an image of gathering and protecting, covering and hovering, calling and making sure no one is missing. It conveys warmth and safety, home and comfort, peace and rest, homecooked food and a warm fire, fluffy blankets and a hug that lasts as long as you hang on. It’s gentle and welcoming and expects nothing except that you show up and snuggle under grace.

Isn’t that why God sent Jesus in the first place—to show us that God’s love for us is both so fierce about defeating evil and in that, asking for our full devotion, and also, so tender in desiring an intimate relationship with us?

Inserted in your bulletin is a copy of the cross I’m wearing today, so you can see it in detail. I received it from a Catholic priest when I was working through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. You can see an image of God, the Creator behind Jesus who is hanging on the cross (it’s an image of God as a man with a beard, but we know that God is not a male; Jesus just gave us in image of God as mother!).

If you look at the arm on the right—you can see that God is holding Jesus’s wrist—as if to hold him there, on the cross. This is the fierce love of God who is helping Jesus complete the work he has begun to defeat the power of death, release the power of violence, and overcome evil with love. God says, “I’m holding you to this, Jesus, you must finish this work, you must stand against evil, you must give all of yourself, I need you to do this, as painful as it is.”

I wonder how have you experienced freedom because the victory was won for you here, as Jesus was held on the cross? When you have experienced the fierce love of God fighting evil and conquering struggles, sin, addiction or loss on your behalf? Or perhaps you too, have experienced the fierce love of God holding you to account, to integrity, to the fulfillment of hard work? That also is a part of following Jesus.

If you look at the arm on the left, you can see that God’s hand is holding Jesus’ hand—holding him in his pain and suffering—being present with him—never leaving him—hiding him under the cover his wings. This is the tender love of God—holding Jesus in love as he suffers and hurts in completing the work he must do, so that he is never alone, abandoned nor betrayed. God says, “we are in this together, and I will never leave you nor forsake you, I am with you, and you are not alone.”

I wonder when have you experienced the tender love of God? The freeing release of forgiveness? Love renewed, relationships healed? A new start offered, a dark night of the soul survived, a trauma endured, an illness abated, a companion in the slow slog of grief? When have you experienced the tender love of God, a chance to snuggle into grace?

Throughout his ministry and on the cross, Jesus shows us a fierce and tender God—a God so fierce, there is no negotiation with Herod, there is no compromise with evil, and even when life is at its most painful, there is no bargaining for half your heart, like in the story of Paula D’Arcy. God is all in with us—in creation, in Christ, in his death and in his resurrection, and God’s fierce and tender love requires that those of us who choose a relationship with this God, must be “all in” as well.

Do you see what fierce and tender love God has for you? God will fight all manner of evil for you, and hold you in all suffering, and in that, God says, “give me your all.” I want you to want me more than you want anything else. I want to transform your pain. I want you to give your whole self to me.

That’s the voice of a fierce and tender God who saves us all through his own self-giving suffering on a cross, and who settles for nothing less than our whole heart.

When like Paula, we can open our hands and let go of the grip of our desires and give our whole selves to God—we can allow God to both hold us in place, where God wants us to serve on one hand, and hold us snuggled into grace and comfort on the other hand.

Joined to Christ through the cross, we are freed—freed to be fully who God calls us to be as God’s precious children. Joined to Christ through the cross, we are freed to participate in God’s fierce and tender work in the world. There is much to be done--both fierce work against evil and tender work with those who are suffering.

As followers of Jesus, God calls us to fight against the evil of this age with the fierce love of God that speaks against the Herods of this world that deal death for the sake of their own power. As a 96% white church, Lutherans must name and stand against the sin and evil of white supremacy and the hatred and murder it engenders, this week, especially against those in Muslim faith. It’s not enough to put a message on the sign outside, but each of us, can build relationships with people of different faiths and cultures in our own neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and if you don’t have that opportunity, then join the Richardson Interfaith Alliance and the many multi-faith events in our area. It is not enough not to come to church or sit in our living room and not hate other people. We trust in a God of relationship who calls us to be in the world building relationships with those of other faiths and cultures, showing up as a different kind of white Christian who fiercely love others.

After the announcement of the United Methodist Church at the beginning of this month, that LGBTQ people are not welcomed into the full life of the church, ordination and marriage, there are so many people who are hurting, feel unsafe, rejected again by church, by God, by Christians. Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers need the tender love of God expressed through Christians and other churches, giving them a chance to snuggle into grace; they need an explicit, public welcome to know if its safe to come to church, and an unequivocal message that they are created and precious children of God in the same way that all of us are, no exceptions. People I know and love are hurting. God wants to say to them, I want you to want me more than you want anything else. I want to transform your pain. I want you to give your whole self to me.

But how are they going to hear that message when they have been rejected over and over and over again, if we don’t tell them? If we don't let them know explicitly and publicly that we are here so they can hear God tell them this?

St. Luke’s, we need the same clarity of mission that Jesus had when he was told Herod was going to kill him; that it doesn’t matter what others do, think or say, we have a mission to do fulfill and we are going to do it no matter what. What difference does it make to Richardson that a Lutheran church is on this corner of Belt Line Road? Our mission is both fierce and tender—it is Law and Gospel—we need a fierce public stand for justice, to confront evil, defend the powerless, welcome the LGBTQ community, and live as an inclusive witness to the kingdom of God. And our mission is also one of tenderness—to hold people in their pain, to offer a place for people to snuggle into the grace of God in a loving community, to pray for others, seek healing, growth and deeper faith together, so that people know that they are not alone.

A fierce and tender ministry of the Gospel is possible when we open our hands and are "all in" with our whole heart—God holds us in this time and place for this fierce ministry and gives us the comfort of his presence and power so we can carry it out with tender love. I’m in—say, “amen” if you are, too.

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Temptation: Evil Laced with Good

Evil Laced with GoodIt’s “tempting” to reduce Jesus’ battle with devil in the wilderness and make it about our daily trials. Maybe if we just have a low-carb diet without too much bread, modify our greed and take buying an island off our bucket list, and avoid extreme sports with no bungee jumping off the Dallas Reunion Tower, we’re good. If we give up chocolate for Lent on top of it, we’re golden, we’re doing Lent extraordinaire. We’ve got this temptation-thing wrapped up, these temptations are going down!

Do we think that is really what this temptation story is rally about? Whether or not we are going to say yes or no to a chocolate sundae for desert tonight, keep drinking our usual Starbucks order every week, or continue overeating at Taco Tuesday through Lent?

The first task in approaching the story of Jesus’ temptation is separating Jesus’ experience of testing and temptation from our own daily trials. My difficulty in not eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting is not equivalent to Jesus resisting the devil’s invitation to turn a stone into bread. None of us would be able to begin to withstand the inquisition Jesus endured after forty days of fasting and solitary living in the wilderness. Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is Jesus’ temptation alone, not ours.

The difference lies in what kind of temptation the devil was really offering Jesus. Satan doesn’t tempt Jesus with whether he is the Son of God—Jesus had just been baptized when the Spirit descended upon him and God’s voice from heaven announced him as God’s beloved Son. But rather, the devil tempts Jesus about HOW he will live out that Spirit-anointed identity in the world. He gives Jesus some concrete, seemingly good alternative ways to be the Son of God in the world—and that’s what makes this temptation story so sinister. The most difficult kind of evil to turn away are those laced with good.

First, the devil tempts Jesus to use the power he has, to create his own plan. “If you turn this stone into bread for yourself, Jesus, just think how easy it will be to feed the masses of hungry people! You could listen to this abstract voice you heard at the Jordan River, or you could use your power and really do some good for tons of people, make a name for yourself, and satisfy your own hunger in the meantime—what’s so wrong with that, Jesus? Go your own way--Sometimes the only one you can trust is yourself.”

The devil tempts Jesus to be the Son of God in an ungodly way, even though it has potential good—it’s a way that does not trust God, God’s way, God’s plan. “One does not live by bread alone,” says Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

The second temptation offers another vision of God’s kingdom, laced with goodness. The devil says, “Let me save you some time, Jesus, I can give you all the kingdoms of the world today! Just think what you could do—stop Roman oppression, end the killing of innocents—we can work this out here and now! And you wouldn’t have to get your hands dirty. Just make me your idol, give me a knee, bow down, and I’ll fix you up.”

Again, the devil tempts Jesus to be the Son of God in an ungodly way—yes, good might come out of it, but it’s a way that does not trust God, God’s way, God’s plan. "It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’" says Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 6:4.

The devil is especially tricky in the third temptation, because he uses Scripture—Psalm 91 which we chanted today—to proof-text his own purpose. “Put God’s promise to the test, Jesus! Take a dive off the temple and put on a good show! You’re God’s beloved child and his angels will save you! Just think how many people will follow you right off the bat if you just give them some drama, a big rescue, a bit of a show—hey, I’ll sing some ‘show tunes’—we’ll make a great team. Wouldn’t you like to skip the suffering and death that human life entails? It’s what Scripture says, after all!”

Scripture can be misused and abused to make something ungodly sound godly, even good. For the third time, the devil temps Jesus to make his position and power as God’s anointed Son about him and his glory and power, and what he can do, rather than about trust in and obedience to God. Jesus recognizes that the devil is also tempting God to act as rescuer, and he responds with Deuteronomy 6:16, "It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "

The devil tries desperately to influence HOW Jesus is going to live out his sacred identity, tempting him to break trust with God, take short cuts, to have self-sufficiency and power, and at the snap of his fingers, feed the masses, command kingdoms, take risks and be rescued. How tempting it must have been—not just for his own glory, but what he could have done for the people he came to help, for the good that might have resulted.

But for Jesus, the ends did not justify the means. Good apart from God’s plan is not ultimately good. How he lived out being the Son of God, had to flow out of Who he was as the Son of God. So, Jesus chose God’s path, God’s way, which was not one of command and control, but one of relationship and love.

Jesus ate with losers, liars, prostitutes, the sick, the lame, and the demon-possessed. Instead of snapping his fingers to make food from stones, he borrowed a boy’s lunch, gave thanks, trusted God, and fed 5,000. He took the bread and wine of the Passover meal and said, “this is my body, this is my blood,” and he still feeds us today.

Instead of commanding kingdoms at the devil’s feet, he gathered ordinary people like day laborers, and fishermen, business owners and women, tax collectors and zealots, and he taught them about God’s way of love and forgiveness, peace and healing through a relationship. And he sent them out 2 by 2, and they told two people and they told two people, and so on and so on, until 2,000 years later, there are 2.5 billion Christians worldwide.

Instead of expecting God to send angels to swoop in and rescue him from the human experience of suffering—Jesus endured it, taking all of the world’s sin and hatred onto himself—absorbing it, rather than returning it—so it would lose its power, and then he rose victorious to show that indeed, nothing, not even death nor the devil himself, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, if this Lent, you want to follow this Jesus for 40 days of prayer, fasting, and resisting temptation, the first thing is to remember—it is the HOW that matters. Like Jesus, your identity is clear from the beginning: beloved Child of God, filled with Holy Spirit. The question is, how are you going to live your life as a Christian? How are you going to deal with your stress, your unhealthy habits, your relationship conflicts, your struggles for success and meaning and power, as a Christian, as a Jesus-follower, as someone who can never be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?

The temptation is always for a quick fix, a short cut that feels good in the moment, doing things our way, by our own effort, self-sufficiency and will-power which can be laced with some good. But we follow Jesus who says, “one cannot live by bread alone, and "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him," and “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” We follow Jesus who trusts in God’s way, no matter what. Ask Jesus to help you put your trust in God to work through you and give you the strength, guidance, wisdom and peace you need!

Maybe you are trying to give up chocolate or Starbucks, reduce your carbon footprint, get rid of plastic, or you want to eat a healthy amount of food on Taco Tuesday, and those are fine things to do during Lent as long as they are not about your own willpower and what you can accomplish on your own (things that are laced with good in our culture) because that is decidedly not about your relationship with God.

But if instead we say, “God is the Lord of my life and I turn every aspect of it over to God, especially this Lent, my unhealthy use of resources or my unhealthy craving for (fill in the blank) ____________sweets, caffeine, alcohol, Girl Scout cookies, tacos, social media….. which I turn to when stressed instead of God; and I ask God to help me turn to Christ instead of my craving …” Now we’re getting somewhere. I would love to have that conversation with you this Lent.

HOW you give up something makes all the difference when it is not about your own willpower, but rather about surrendering to God.

You are a chosen, claimed, beloved child of God! Jesus has withstood the worst of what the devil has to offer, so that his Spirit is available to give you the best—all that you need in times of trial and temptation both big and small. God has a way forward for you in every wilderness you face and with every devil you face. Through Christ, we can surrender and trust in God’s way rather than our own. So trust Jesus to help you, for the devil is no match for him!


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