A striking image has stayed with me through Epiphany and seems a theme as I prepare to renew my discipline of life in the season of Lent. The image came from the Christmas readings and echoed as we listened to the story of John the baptist throughout the Epiphany season, it is from the first chapter of John's Gospel, verse 14: "The Word came and lived among us." This living, this dwelling, is described in Greek as like a tabernacle.
What a radical idea that must have been for the first listeners of John's Gospel. That the living Word came and lived out in the world as it had in the tabernacle. People, the first followers of Jesus and those living in John's community, certainly understood that God dwelled in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, in Jerusalem. But people were not acustomed to the idea that God came and dwelled out in the world. The message was clear the living Word was indeed out in the world. It dwelled in the person of Jesus and by his coming near to us it may dwell in us too.
The problem seems to me to be that it is so very hard to recognize the reality that this living Word is present with us and that we have the opportunity to be near it.
Gordon Cosby in Transformed by Grace describes for me this very same difficutly when he wrote "Christian growth is a movement from self to God; it is a progressive growing into a communion with God, into a friendship with God, until we come to the place where we are aware of God's presence…That which hinders us from knowing the reality of his presence is ourselves, our own lack of openness, our own unwillingness to belong totally to another - our resistance to the One who claims us totally for himself."
Today we seek out a tabernacled salvation in our investments, our securities, our plans for safety, our trusts, our work, or in the obviously distructive alchohol or drugs…believing each is our salvation, our key to peace. We convince ourselvs that each is our tabernacled truth. But they ar not, they are simply our own self-want and desires leading us further and further from God. We so easily get off track and when these worldly want-to-be's fail us we are dissappointed, fearful, anxious and sometimes surprised.
We are no different from the very earliest of Christians. They in their wisdom sought to radically make a shift in their living arrangements with God and chose intentionally to observe special seasons and days of devotion. They would repentent and fast. They would invite new members into the faith and join with them in renewing their lives in Christ. Those who had fallen away were given the opportunity to come home and be restored into the community of the faithful. Through this individual work the whole community was reinvigorated for the work of the Gospel and their mission of grace.
Lent is the time of the Christian year when we take upon ourselves the disciplines of the church so that we may overcome our innate tendancies to shut ourselves off from the God who claims us. It is a time when we fast and when we pray intentionally. We engage in repentance, which truly means a turning from the path that takes us away from the Lord's embrace into the arms of God's friendship.
I hope you will intentionally mark your calendar for Ash Wednesday, February 25th. Find a service of the imposition of ashes to attend. I invite you to make this a holy and life changing season. Try daily prayer again, fast on Fridays, change your life and habits that they may draw you closer to the tabernacled Word which is dwelling in your heart. Read and listen to scripture so that you may know how to be in the world and how you are to be a part of changing the world with Christ.
Take intentional and deliberate steps towards your Lord and Savior. Grow in communion with God and all those within his faithful community. Discover God's friendship with you and be transformed by his Grace.
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball