There is something in me right now that is burning or chaffing in me because I am watching the Church and getting ready for another Lent. We seem to have miss understood what this time of year is about. Yes, we are six weeks out from the celebration of Easter and this is the time when we are to repent and to return to the Lord because we have fallen away, walked away or even run away for him. This is a moment for repentance and for surrender – not just self denial. In reading the lessons for Ash Wednesday and for the First Sunday of Lent, there is something that come out loud and clear: we cannot tag God on. God wants us to have a faith tht is practical, not just informed. So, the challenge is simple. We need to walk what we preach, and we need to preach what we walk. There is a reality that we need to face in this part of the world, people know you by how you walk, before you have ever uttered a single word.
That is why we need to be a people who have surrendered. Did not Jesus himself say, that “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me?” That is not the same thing as giving up something for Lent, it is a total surrender of one’s life to the will of the Master. In fact, the third and fourth centuries, the words of baptism took this seriously because the deacon would say to you, “I kill you.” Then you were pushed down under the surface of the water so that you disappeared. The understanding was that when you left that font, you left as a new person. The old person was dead and there was a new creation.
It is part and parcel of being a disciple. We must surrender to Christ and learn to continue to surrender to him in the things that are in out lives. And believe it or not, there is more. Jesus takes his disciples with him on the journey – so that they can get his dust on them. And in doing so he is teaching them at least two important things: (1) they need to listen and to learn from him and (2) they are learning to proclaim the Gospel with dignity and with power so that there is a unified witness of the Church. A unified witness does not mean that we have it all together, that there are no disagreements and misunderstandings. It means that in all things we must proclaim Christ and his kingdom. We must make people aware that the collisions that are being created with our fabricated kingdoms and the coming of the kingdom of God.
We need to declare Christ so that people can hear the heavens being torn open and know that God is speaking to them. God is calling on people to hear his Son and to follow him – into life without end. God is forgiving, retrieving us and healing our wounds to make us whole. God is merciful because he stands between us and our impending disasters and death and calls us to himself to prevent our destruction. God is powerful and can pull down the kingdoms of creation, personal and corporate, physical and spiritual so that his will for his beloved comes to fruition. The kingdom of God is becoming a reality in the here and now, not just the there and then. It is unique and while all are called to it there are impediments to entrance. We cannot enter his kingdom on our terms. We must enter on his terms. The kingdom is not so much a place as it is a dominion or a reign. It is a power that has the strength and the ability to turn right side up, this upside-down world. It has the strength to turn an inward focused Church, outwards; to care for the poor the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the naked and those in jail.
Most of all, we need to recognize that this life is lived in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. He is how we live and move and have our being. It is through him that we can deal with temptation and deal with hunger and thirst, with emptiness and worthlessness.
So, are you ready to surrender? Are you ready to step up and step out in faith? Are you ready to live and die, then rise again, daily if you must? And remember, the worst things we deal with, are never the last things we will deal with – God will see to that.