Glenda Simpkins Hoffman
We have one more week to celebrate and honor Pete for his 42 years of ministry, so I invite you again to make time to do that by going to our website. Another special opportunity is being provided to honor Pete and bless our congregation: a new worship opportunity led by Keith and Kristen Getty and their children. Access the concert here; you won’t be disappointed.
This is the also the first Sunday of Lent. This year we are overlapping Pete’s “What Matters Most” sermon series with our Lenten focus of “Let Go and Let God.” I too have been reflecting on the passage Pete preached on today from Hebrews 12:1-3, and it gives us very good direction. We are to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Our life in Christ is a marathon, and we can’t afford to be dragged down by the weight of sin.
Lent is a gift that provides an opportunity for drawing closer to God and seeking him more intentionally. It’s a season to ask ourselves, “Where in my life have I gotten away from God, and what and how to I find my way back?”
Lent is an invitation for self-examination, confession, and repentance. These are ways we let go so that we can let God give us the assurance of forgiveness we already have in Christ. We can pray with the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Lent is an invitation to let go of some bad habits we have taken on like eating or drinking too much, watching too much television or too many movies, spending too much time on social media, or distracting ourselves in any number of ways from what is real in our lives right now due to COVID-19 or other more personal concerns. We can reorient ourselves by setting aside more time to seek the Lord through prayer, fasting, and reading and meditating on his word. If we are finding ourselves using biting or unkind words, letting go through silence and solitude is an invitation to let God’s compassion, grace, and kindness be a part of our experience and so help us to share that more with the people around us.
Lent is a time to engage more intentional disciplines as a means of grace to transform us our sinful thoughts, words, and actions so that we can become more like Christ—more loving, joyful, and peaceful.
But as I have said before, discipline for discipline’s sake won’t get us too far down the road. That’s why I love the Hebrews passage so much. It gives us the motivation: “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
So much of the time we focus on ourselves, what we are doing, and on our circumstances. Instead, we are to focus on Jesus—who he is and all he has done for us. He is the one who gave us faith and will perfect our faith by his grace and power. Even in his suffering on the cross, he always kept before him the joy of being reconciled to those he loved. How amazing to be loved so much, to be cared for so much.
Lent is a time to think about what is keeping us from living for God and seeking his best for our lives. Jesus longs for us to experience the depth of his love and joy here and now and for eternity. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and our hearts open to that longing for something more, something essential, something real—that is what will keep us going.
Twenty years ago I was introduced to Ted Loder’s book Guerillas of Grace. I especially love the prayer, “Let Something Essential Happen to Me.” It’s an expression of longing for God and a good prayer to pray throughout this season of Lent.
let something essential happen to me,
something more than interesting
let something essential happen to me,
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters,
a change that will burn and tremble and heal
and explode me into tears
or love that throbs or screams
or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence
and dares the dangerous deeds.
Let something happen in me
which is my real self, God….
let something essential and joyful happen in me now,
something like the blooming of hope and faith,
like a grateful heart,
like a surge of awareness
of how precious each moment is,
that now, not next time,
now is the occasion
to take off my shoes
to see every bush afire,
to leap and whirl with neighbor,
to gulp the air as sweet wine
until I’ve drunk enough
to dare to speak the tender word:
“I love you”
“Let’s live forever beginning now”
and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”