Parish Caller February 2020 Newsletter
‘By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.’ Colossians 2:14
Have you made your list and checked it twice? You may be thinking, ‘What list…its not Christmas.’ I know its no longer Advent or Christmas. We don’t need to create a good list of ourselves and request material items. But some of us do. You see, we are entering a new church season in which lists are made-a naughty list so to speak. As Ash Wednesday approaches, some believers find it helpful to reflect on the Passion of Christ when they create a list of material items they wish to give up; e.g. “chocolate, t.v., alcohol. This symbolizes for the believer as a way of ‘suffering’ with Christ, giving up guilty pleasures and refocusing on the cross. But its only good so far as you replace those things with spiritual things, such as prayer or scripture reading.
Here’s something you might not have known. Anglo-Saxon Christians used to eat pancakes the day before Lent. They would use up the last of the guilty pleasure foods in their pantry, such as eggs, flour, and sugar to have a great big celebration before having a bland diet during the 40 days of Lent. They would cook pancakes and basically gorge and then head to the confessional booth. Shrove is derived from the word ‘shrive’ which means to give absolution after confession. Today some places continue to celebrate Shrove Tuesday by serving pancakes and homemade syrup. Other Christian Americans come to know this day as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras and opt to give up other indulgences besides food.
These are nice attempts to believe we are suffering with our Savior, but they fall short of the mark. Jesus gave up his life for our selfishness and sin, Jesus gave up heaven to become God incarnate. It falls short because that is all our physical sacrifices are, nice attempts to get God’s favor, i.e., works righteousness. We may jot down all the foods, thoughts, words or deeds trying really hard not to cave into during Lent in hopes that afterwards we will have created a new good habit. After-all, “That is what Jesus would have wanted, right? For us to use his suffering to create a new habit and believe we are sharing in His pain.”
As believers, the harder we try to keep our list of perfection the farther we fall from understanding God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. Our naughty list reminds us what a failure we are. This list becomes the law. It can leave us broken knowing we can’t attain the righteous goals we have set for ourselves. Hopeless and helpless we find two options if left to ourselves, 1) we either lower the righteous standards or 2) we walk away from faith altogether.
How about our third option. God knew we could not keep the law perfectly. Time and time again God watches people fail since the Garden of Eden. So, He sends us a Savior who does not fail. He keeps the law to perfection, not once lowering the righteous bar that will one day smite him. On that cross over 2,000 years ago He took the entire law that he upheld and died for you and I. Through this act of selfless love he destroys our nice attempts and our feeble lists to be holy. He takes them, crumples them up and tosses them away. He then points us to His love and mercy through an instrument of death, a sinless sacrifice, and an empty tomb. His righteousness is now your righteousness. Unearned and unmerited.
Yes, we might feel like we are closer to God in our suffering from lack of sodas or chocolates, but nothing compares to Christ and his suffering Hell in our behalf. This Lenten season let us ever be mindful of Jesus great sacrifice for us and grace and mercy he freely and unconditionally gives to you and me.
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