How is Lent going for you?

But Jesus is our high priest

Hebrews 10:12-18 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time… For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

Philippians 1:6 God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

When I was in college in the ‘70s, some of us wore buttons that said PBPGINFWMY. Do any of you remember that? Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.

I just discovered vintage buttons are still available on the internet!

How different this is from what I understand to be “cancel culture” (feel free to correct me!), wherein a person can be condemned and ostracized if they make one mistake or commit one sin—even if they repent, confess and ask forgiveness. Especially if it’s a sin of a certain type which brands them forever as a “bad” person.

PBPGINFWMY acknowledges there is “badness,” immaturity, self-centeredness, blindness, ignorance, stupidity, and sin in each of us. The good news of the Gospel, however, tells us Jesus has provided a way forward. Though he was perfectly good, he chose to be “cancelled” so the rest of us wouldn’t have to be. He endured false accusations and paid the penalty of the judgment made against him, fulfilling the terms of the sentence once for all.

All of this so we (who are in fact guilty) can be forgiven and live in freedom. And have space and time to grow up into goodness, confident we are already accepted and dearly loved.

So, this mid-point of the season of Lent seems a good time to ask: How is Lent going for you?

If we try to do Lenten work on our own, it can be a total downer. But if we trust our High Priest and depend on the Holy Spirit and soak in the Father’s unfathomable love for us, we can experience hope and relief and gratitude and joy.

Like my friend who just received news of a clean scan, after a long, difficult fight with cancer. It wouldn’t have been a kindness for her doctor to have patted her on the back and said, “You’re OK, I’m OK.” Recognizing the cancer that was killing her, though it led to tough, painful times during treatment, was essential. This is the lifesaving, life-transforming kindness of God we can experience during Lent.

The disciplines of Lent offer us time to pay attention to areas of our lives which still need to change and mature. Recognizing and admitting them is called confession. Repentance includes choosing to do all in our power to live, think, behave, and treat others with the grace we receive through God’s forgiveness of our sins and failings. This process is called sanctification.

Making us holy is a joint effort between us and the Trinity. We humbly accept that we can’t make ourselves better. While we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, asking him to produce his beautiful virtues in our lives, Jesus, our High Priest, intercedes for us. And our Father holds us in his love.

So, PBPGINFWMY!

Lenten roses in my back yard

But God makes the seed grow

1 Corinthians 3:3-4, 6-7, 16-17, 21-23 You are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other…Aren’t you acting just like people of the world? … I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. … Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. … So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

My sister Linda has an interesting perspective of the various expressions of the Christian church. Having experienced a variety of them firsthand, she notes that each one seems to have a specific gift to offer the whole Body of Christ—like the gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, but at a denominational level instead of individual.

I love that perspective. It fits well with this third chapter of 1 Corinthians. All the fulness of the Holy Spirit was in Jesus, and when he ascended to Heaven and then sent the Spirit to the church on Pentecost, he distributed spiritual gifts—like light shining through a prism, diffracting and making visible all its beautiful colors. We need each other, because no single person, church, or denomination contains all the gifting of the Spirit. God fully lives in all of us together.

tuulijumala from Shutterstock

And here’s the truly wonderful thing: What God gives to you, he gives to me, too. What he gives to me is meant to bless you. “Everything belongs to you,” Paul told the Corinthians, and that “you” is plural. If we are jealous, critical, or rejecting of other parts of the Body of Christ, we lose a part of what God wants to give us. And when we think we are the ones who have it all, we lose too through not sharing.

I’m reminded again of the story I told in the last post. Eight children, eight fun gifts for Christmas. But many of those gifts weren’t fun to play with alone. Games and toys and puzzles are designed to be shared. And if just one or two of my sisters and I tried to play Monopoly by ourselves, we missed out on our brother Steve’s ingenuity. He always managed to make play time more fun by creating new rules and strategies. (He even got us girls to wash dishes when it was his turn, by reading Jeeves to us while we worked. Humdrum tasks filled with laughter when Steve was part of them.)

All was not joy and laughter in our home, though. We’ve all struggled with “zero-sum” thinking: there’s not enough to go around, so if I gain, you lose; if you gain, I lose. That’s a big topic for another time. But listen to what Paul says: Everything belongs to you! To all of you! All of us collectively as well as individually. There’s no need for envy or fighting or squashing you so I can get ahead or stay in power. God’s upside-down Kingdom is marked by the magic of abundance, generosity, and service, not stinginess or hoarding or manipulation. In Christ small becomes big, enough for everyone. A boy’s lunch, a widow’s penny, a flask of perfume, a man’s donkey, a mustard seed of faith, a rich man’s tomb . . . Because when given back to God, he makes our small offerings grow into something much greater than what they would be if kept to ourselves.

P.S. I wrote other thoughts about 1 Cor 3:6 on August 2, 2018. Check it out: Karis and a life-giving story from “Aunt” Claudia!