In for the long haul


Here are my thoughts for this Sunday in Lent

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If you watched any major televised sporting event in the 1980’s, you would invariably spot a guy in a wild rainbow colored Afro wig holding up a sign saying “John 3:16”. This individual, known as “Rockin Rollen”, first started just trying to get attention for himself. Then it became his mission to bring his view of the Gospel to the world through the major sporting events of the time. Unfortunately, this mission took a wrong turn somewhere and it was reported that Rollen ended up in jail. But his activities inspired others to do similar stunts and we may on occasion still see Biblical references on placards during televised sporting events.

But the one reference that was posted during a game that made the most sense was a sign reportedly posted during a University of Tennessee football game in the 1980’s (probably 1988). The Volunteers started the season by losing their first five games and it was during the sixth game that a fan held up a sign saying “Luke 23: 34”. It is said that there was a great rush the next day in church among Tennessee fans as they sought to discover the significance of this phrase as it applied to college football. For those that haven’t reached for their Bible and turned to the passage, this is the passage where Jesus, on the cross, says “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The problem for churches today isn’t so much that we seek Biblical passages to use in commentary on daily lives but we use the passages to suggest that we are knowledgeable about Christ and what He would have us do. Quick references to Biblical passages have become the “sound bites” of modern Christianity.

And just as “sound bites” on television don’t hold our attention, we quickly lose our attention when all we do is turn Christianity into “sound bites.” Do we not forget that, in having declared that we are followers of Christ, it is our lives that change? As Paul notes in the Epistle reading for today (1), before we started this new journey, ours was a life of the moment. But in proclaiming Christ as our Savior, our lives change and our view of life changes as well.

As the Old Testament reading for today (2) indicates, the children of Israel were continually forgetting why it was that they were in the desert. Again, the people of Israel are screaming at Moses about the lack of food and water. It would seem that the people, having escaped slavery and seen the many miracles of God, are not content to accept manna from heaven and water from a rock. Each miracle seems to be accompanied by a demand from the people to do it again; the first time wasn’t sufficient. The “sound bite” mentality of today was even present during the days in the Wilderness!

The use of the serpents to cause the children of Israel to repent is a reminder to us of Christ’s suffering on the cross. A snake bite can cause excruciating pain and raging fevers. The commentary for this passage from Numbers suggests that there were no antidotes for the snake bites that the people were receiving.

It was the pain of the bites that drove the people to repent. Choosing a snake as an emblem of life must seem unreasonable since it was the snake that was causing the death in the first place. But, if the people wanted to live, the passage tells us that they must look at the image of the snake on the pole that Moses had created. Jesus mentioned this image in his discussion with Nicodemus (3) as an analogy to what He would encounter on the Cross. To Jews, crucifixion was a sign of the curse; therefore, just as the Israelites had to look on the repugnant, uplifted image of the snake in order to be saved, so too must we look at the uplifted image of Jesus on the Cross in order to be saved from our sins.

But, often times, we do not want to do that. We do not want to be reminded that we must make changes in our lives if we are to be saved. While we may not want to, our focus must and always be on the cross. For without the cross to remind what we are preparing for, life itself has no meaning. It is very interesting what Paul is telling us in his letter to the Ephesians this week.

Before Christ, our lives were our own and we were free to do what we wanted to. But this life was nothing, if it was anything at all. And we searched for answers but all we found or heard where the sound bites. God, for whatever reason and through Christ, offers us a way out of this short-term mentality. He gives us something that we can hold on, something that gives us reason and purpose. But we have to focus on the cross and the resurrection; we have to continue the work that Jesus started. As Paul concludes the passage from Ephesians for today, “through Christ, we are to do the work that God intended for us to do.”

So, we have a choice this day. We can keep our “sound bite” mentality and use short tidbits of information to show others how “enlightened” and “Christian” we are. Or we can decide to throw off the trappings and attitudes of today’s life and follow the life that Jesus Christ showed us, knowing that this means we are in it for the long haul. Three weeks from today, we will come to the cross. For some, this will be a “sound bite” that will quickly disappear on Monday; for others, it will mark a moment in a new life. Which will it be for you? Will your life be nothing more than “sound bites” or are you in this for the long haul?


(1) 

Ephesians 2: 1 – 10

(2)  Numbers 21: 4 – 9
(3)  John 3: 14 – 15

The Law Fulfilled


Here are my thoughts for this, the 3rd Sunday of Lent.
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We are presented with an interesting image of Jesus in the Gospel reading for today. (1) Instead of the quiet, contemplative teacher, we find an angry Jesus forcibly and physically clearing the Temple of the money changers and other merchants doing business with the many pilgrims who had come to the Temple for worship. It is an action that not many, either His disciples or His critics, expected. And it is in contrast to the Old Testament reading for today (2), the Ten Commandments. How can we relate a reading of the Ten Commandments with Jesus’ actions in the Temple?

The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites by God after, not before, He chose them. He did not say “keep these commandments and you will become my chosen people.” Rather, God said that because you have been chosen and saved, you will want to live the kind of life that will lead to salvation. Robert Schuller wrote, “God gave us these ten laws to protect us from an alluring, tempting path which would ultimately lead only to sickness, sin, and sorrow.”

The Ten Commandments are often divided into two parts. The first deals with our relationship with God:

  1. Put God first in everything
  2. Reject ideas about God that He himself has not revealed.
  3. Never speak or act as if God is not real or present.
  4. Set aside a day to rest and remember God.

The second deals with our relationship with others:

  1. Show respect for your parents.
  2. Do nothing with the intent to harm another person.
  3. Be faithful in your commitment to your spouse.
  4. Respect the rights of others.
  5. Respect the reputation of others as well as their lives and property.
  6. Care about others, not about their possessions.

God did not force the Israelites to accept these laws. He did say that this was what was expected of them and He let them know what would happen if they chose not to follow the laws. But God also promised blessings on the people if they obeyed the commandments. (3) This became the foundation of what we call the Law Covenant. Unlike God’s covenant with Abraham (4), this was between God and Israel.

Over time, the relationships expressed in the Ten Commandments became the basis for the laws of society and the observance of the law became a characteristic of the covenant. This restatement was further restated and elaborated, ultimately becoming what was known as the Law of Moses.

And, over time, the laws and the interpretations of laws based on the Ten Commandments were so restrictive as to make it impossible to live. So afraid were people afraid of breaking the Ten Commandments that 613 additional laws were written and codified. Three hundred and sixty-five of these laws were negative in nature (beginning with “thou shall not”); the other 248 were positive (beginning with “thou shall”) but still limiting in what one could and could not do. (5)

It was the Law of Moses that stated that only unblemished animals could be sacrificed in the Temple for religious purposes. It was also the Law of Moses that required every Jewish male over the age of nineteen to pay a temple tax. But only certain animals, declared without blemish, and only acceptable coins, ones without the likeness of the emperor, could be used. So the moneychangers were needed to change the money and others were needed to sell the pilgrims coming to the Temple the “correct” type of animal. But the exchange rate for the money and the cost of the animals were often exorbitant. Thus, a moment that was supposed to be special became another instance of exploitation and oppression.

In that day, salvation was only possible through a strict obedience to the law. But if the laws of society are restrictive, salvation becomes either hopeless or impossible. When the laws of society are restrictive, you spend all your time trying to avoid doing the wrong thing and no time doing what is right. Remember that Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath and the Pharisees complained that this was in violation of the Commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. But Jesus pointed out that doing that which helps can never contradict the commandments.

The society in Jesus time was a society in which obedience to the law was the only way to salvation. But God gave the law to the Israelites after he had saved them, not before. Following the law is not a requirement for salvation, believing in God is.

There is a need for laws and rules but it must be understood that laws themselves cannot be so constructed as to harm others. For so many years in the beginning of this country slavery was claimed to be a justifiable act of commerce, simply because slavery was mentioned in the Bible. Our laws of segregation were based on an interpretation of the Bible that said that the races should not mix. But when put against a moral background, slavery and all that followed is a bloodstain that cannot be wiped out. You cannot write laws that suppress one group or individuals, for when you do that, you suppress all.

Growing up in the south, it was not hard during the sixties to ignore the consequences of segregation. When I lived in Alabama in 1962, students, both white and black, in schools in Alabama had to buy their books at bookstores because school boards did not want to provide free books. If your parents could afford to buy the books, then you had the books you needed; if your parents could not afford the books, then you suffered the consequences. In 1966 and 1967, the music programs at the schools in Tennessee got the same amount of money each year. But it was hardly enough money to buy sheet music, let alone repair and buy new instruments. If the band or choir director wanted more music or needed instruments, then you had to raise the funds yourself. Most music programs had booster programs for that reason. So schools where the booster organization had the resources got better instruments and better support; if the booster organization didn’t have the resources, then the band didn’t get the better stuff. Laws should prevent injustice, not cause it.

Yet, in a world where there is so much injustice and oppression, there are voices calling for more laws, more restrictions. They claim that these laws are based on the Ten Commandments, even if the Ten Commandments were only intended as an instruction guide for life. Yet, even while they are fighting to put the Ten Commandments in our daily lives, it is clear that they do not follow the rules themselves.

Many who support the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in daily life work against abortion but easily find justification for the death penalty. Instead of speaking out against war, injustice, and oppression, they find ways to justify wars and prevent individuals from receiving aid, even if we are not supposed to bring harm to others.

Jesus’ anger in the Temple that day was because the rules of society were preventing people from maintaining their relationship with God. The rules of society made it impossible for people to be with God, let alone even know the existence of God. We live in a society today where too many people do not even know who God is. We call these individuals “seekers” and we do it for good reason; they are seeking to find something, even if they do not know what it is. These seekers do know one thing; that the world is in shambles and there must be a way to correct it. They are quite willing to listen to those who argue that we need stronger laws; they are quite willing to listen to those who preach an Old Testament way of life and forget that Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”

The Pharisees and other leaders of Jesus’ day did not go away on that Resurrection Sunday some 2000 years ago. They are still here today, seeking to control what one thinks and says and does. They are the ones Paul is referring to his first letter to the Corinthians (6) as the wise. Paul writes, “God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.” Paul was referring to those who sought to control society through their laws and restrictions on life. But, as Paul writes, they do not know who God is so there is no way that they can tell others what they do not know. As Paul noted, it was the Christ crucified on the cross that overcame the wisdom so it must be Christ that we live by.

It is not our responsibility to point out the foolishness of those who seek to live by the law; for their foolishness will be seen in due time. Each Sunday in Lent we come closer to that moment in time that defines who we are and what we are to become. Each Sunday we come closer to the victory of Christ over sin and death, the victory that gives us life and freedom. So, in this season of preparation, what are we to do? How shall we meet the responsibilities laid down so many years ago on that mountain in the desert? How shall we meet the responsibilities given to us by Jesus Christ when he proclaimed the Gospel message to heal the sick, comfort those in need, and free the oppressed?

We do so by leading a life guided by the Ten Commandments and led by Christ. We do so by showing others that Christ is alive in this world by our words, our thoughts, and our deeds. We lead a life that is the law fulfilled.


John 2: 13 – 22

  • Exodus 20: 1 – 17
  • But note that the commandments do not say just do good and you will be rewarded; nor did the commandments or the covenant say when the blessing would come.
  • Genesis 17: 1 – 7, 15 – 16
  • From “the Journey Towards Relevance” by Kary Oberbrunner, page37
  • 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25
  • Are You Able?


    My thoughts for this, the 2nd Sunday in Lent.
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    Lent is about preparation.So, as we progress into the Lenten Season, perhaps we should stop and consider just exactly what we are preparing for.Are we preparing for Easter Sunday and the Resurrection?Or are we preparing for the day after Easter when we are charged with the responsibilities of continuing the ministry of Christ?

    As part of that preparation, it is traditional to give something up for Lent.But do we really give something up or do we just put it aside until Easter comes and go so we can begin doing or using whatever it is that we gave up?Are we willing to give up everything and follow Christ?Are we willing to take up the Cross and follow Christ, as He asked in today’s Gospel? (1)

    Many of those who flocked to hear Jesus’ message left when the reality of the message came through.How many of those first followers were truly willing to give up everything they had and pick up the cross to continue the message.In the passages that follow this reading it is suggested that many gave up and went home.So how can we prepare for Easter Sunday if weare not willing to prepare for the Monday after Easter?The meaning of Lent is found, I think, not in our preparation for Easter but rather in what we will do after Easter Sunday.

    It is a message that the modern church should do well to heed.It seems to me that too many churches and far too many pastors focus on getting people into church without focusing on why we have a church in the first place.Too many churches offer various activities and services that compete with similar activities and services outside church in order to bring people into the church.But in doing this, the mission of the church and the real reason for having a church has been forgotten.

    The difficulty is that the church, while in the community, cannot be part of the community.In the past, churches put up walls to keep the community from coming in.In the middle ages this was important because the community outside the walls of the church was dedicated to destruction and death; the church maintained the culture and history of civilization.But after the Middle Ages, those quaint times we have come to know as the Dark Ages, the church’s walls that protected the church from outside influences kept the church from updating and growing.The church continued to protect the historical culture of civilization without realizing that the world outside its walls had changed.

    That is clearly not the case in today’s society.If anything, we have allowed what’s outside the church to define what we do inside the church.Too many pastors have opted out for the softer message found in the seeker service; too many pastors have opted out for the prosperity gospel. The essence and heart of the Gospel message has been stripped away in search of a quick and easy message, one more attuned to the variances of today.

    H. Richard Niebuhr once observed that the theology of liberal Protestantism was “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”It is interesting to read this comment because Niebuhr was referring to the liberal side of the faith but it is the same theology that many on the conservative side of the faith use in their preaching today.It is the essence of what are called “seeker-friendly” services.It is the very message that Joel Osteen and other modern day pastors are preaching! If you go to the Lakewood Church website and search around for the words “God” and “Jesus”, you will not find them. They just aren’t there. But the words “Joel Osteen” and “Ministries” are everywhere. There’s no sin or judgment or even kingdom — much less a Christ on a Cross — suffering. (2) It is almost as if they are ashamed to preach the words of Jesus. (3)

    Instead of maintaining the way of the church, churches have quickly added trappings of the present culture, at the expense of the message.There is nothing wrong with using modern music or changing the order of the service or how or where we worship.After all, there were people who felt that the introduction of the organ and organ music was inappropriate for worship.But the message that is presented cannot be changed just because society has changed.The times are changing but the message must remain the same.

    Any message that promises riches and rewards here on earth misses the point of the Gospel that Jesus preached.The message brought hope and comfort to those that needed it; if we do nothing to assist in bringing that hope and comfort then we have not been listening to the words of Jesus.No one who accepts the words of Christ in their mind or accepts the Holy Spirit in our heart can sit back and do nothing to help those in need or those who are sick or oppressed.Remember the rich young man who came to Christ seeking the Kingdom of Heaven.He went away sad because he was not willing to give up all of his material blessings to follow Christ.The promises of reward for following the Gospel are not found here on earth but in Heaven.Yet the message of many modern day churches is that one’s riches are a sign of a blessing from God.

    When John Wesley began to look at the nature of his church, he found a church that favored the wealthy and the affluent.He found a church that equated poverty with sin and proclaimed that those who were poor were sinners while those who were rich were righteous.The message of the 18th century church was that God had blessed those who were rich and snubbed those who were poor.Society and the church offered no hope to the poor and the oppressed and proclaimed that it was their own misfortunes that lead them to lead lives of poverty and despair.

    But the Gospel message was not meant to repress the poor and the downtrodden; it was meant to bring hope to those individuals.The Gospel message was not one that those who lead a righteous life would reap the rewards now but rather those who lead a righteous life and helped those less fortunate would see their rewards in heaven.

    We tell people that they are blessed and that the rewards are theirs but that is not what God told Abram.He did acknowledge that Abram, who would become Abraham, would gain from his obedience to God but the gain would come in the form of the children Abraham would leave behind.Abraham’s ultimate reward would come, not on earth, but in Heaven. (4) How can we promise anything different?

    We need to remember that the Protestant Reformation began because of indulgences, the practice of selling “tickets” into heaven.It was this practice that Martin Luther rebelled against when he began what became the Lutheran church.It was a 16th century version of the prosperity gospel of today.

    John Wesley saw a church that had fallen back into the trap of the law as the way.If they followed the law, as did the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time, then they could consider them successful.With the prosperity gospel message of today, we are doing the same thing.But, as Paul wrote to the Romans in today’s reading (5), if we hold to the faith and we follow are faith, we will see gain the rewards.True, we may not see the rewards here on earth but, again as Paul pointed out, Abraham would not see the promise that he would be “the father of many nations”.It was his faith that guided him and it will be or should be our faith that guides us.

    Are we ready to give up everything we have so that we can follow Christ?During this period of Lent, as we prepare for the Resurrection and celebration of Easter Sunday, let us also prepare for the next day, the Monday after Easter.Let us prepare to continue the message of the Gospel after the joy of Easter morning is gone.Are we willing and able to follow Christ, even if it should mean our own death?

    1. Are ye able,” said the Master, “to be crucified with me?””Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered, “to the death we follow thee.”  Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.
    2. Are ye able to remember, when a thief lifts up his eyes, that his pardoned soul is worthy of a place in paradise?
    3. Are ye able when the shadows close around you with the sod, to believe that spirit triumphs, to commend your soul to God?
    4. Are ye able? Still the Master whispers down eternity, and heroic spirits answer, now as then in Galilee.

    Mark8: 31 – 38

    Now is the time


    Here are my thoughts for the 1st Sunday in Lent.
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    Lately it seems like any time there is something they don’t like, the more vocal Christian fundamentalists in this country have said that God in his wrath will strike this country a devastating blow.The hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast and the tornadoes that ravaged the mid-west last summer were examples of God’s punishing America for lifestyle choices and the failure to accept the word of these same fundamentalists as the sole truth.Some Christian fundamentalists have even claimed that God would send tornadoes or other natural disasters to strike towns and localities because the people who lived there failed to accept the political agenda of the same Christian fundamentalists.What I find interesting and perhaps even ludicrous is that many fundamentalists claimed that the floods that devastated the Midwest during the summer of 1993 were further example’s of God’s wrath and anger for the failure of the people to follow their, the fundamentalists, political agenda.

    I say that these claims are ludicrous because, while they claim such devastation is Biblical in nature, the Old Testament reading for today plainly tells us that God will never again cover the earth in a flood.Something is wrong with this picture when a preacher claims that God uses a flood as a sign of His wrath while God Himself tells us that the rainbow is a sign of the covenant that God made with Noah that He would never flood the earth again.

    Did not God, when Jesus was baptized, send the dove as a sign of his blessing?Was not the dove the same sign that the world would be a place mankind could once again live in?How can this God be a god of destruction and hatred?

    Where do these fundamentalists get their information?Exactly which god are these fundamentalists speaking about?What kind of god would strike out in vengeful wrath and at the same time say he would never flood the earth again?What kind of god would wreck havoc and disaster across this country and then send his son as a symbol of his love?And what type of minister would preach hatred, division, exclusiveness, and greed when Our Lord and Savior preached forgiveness, freedom, inclusiveness, and gave hope to the downtrodden and oppressed.

    I have come to the conclusion that many of these fundamentalists who say that they talk to God and know what God wants are nothing but false prophets, interested only in getting people to follow them down the road to ruin.Now is the time for each one of us to realize that many of these so-called preachers do not preach the word of God nor do they embody the message of the Gospel.Theirs is a message of self-indulgence, self-interest and greed.They are more interested in the furtherance of their own deeds than they are the message that Christ brought to us some two thousand years ago.Now is the time that we should speak out and bring to the forefront the Gospel message of Christ.

    These are times when our own fears and insecurities are the things which drive and lead us.It is our fears and insecurities that lead us to listen to preachers who promise us riches will come if we follow their faith.It is our fears and securities that lead us to listen to preachers who put the blame for the troubles of this country on others because they have the wrong lifestyle, the wrong economic status, the wrong skin color, the wrong religious beliefs.

    We have allowed ourselves to live in a world of fear.Note Adam and Eve’s response to the knowledge that they had sinned; it was fear; fear that they had offended God.In their fear, they hid from God.And in our sin, we try to find ways of reclaiming God that do not necessarily involve God.

    How does this all fit into this time, this season of Lent?Thomas Merton wrote,

    “The purpose of Lent is not expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, but above all a preparation to rejoice in God’s love.And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of God’s mercy – a gift which we receive in so far as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

    Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear.Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart.It shrinks up our capacity to love.It freezes up our power to give ourselves.IF we are terrified of God as an inexorable judge, we would not confidently await God’s mercy, or approach God trustfully in prayer.Our peace, our joy in Lent is a guarantee of grace. (1)

    It is important that we remember this first part of the covenant that God made with Noah.God’s covenant with mankind, through Noah, was that until the ends of the earth there would be seasons for planting and harvest, day and night.Even though mankind had rebelled against him and caused him great anguish, God promised to Noah that the rhythms of the earth necessary to sustain life would always be maintained.

    God’s covenant with Noah was a sign of a fresh start, a new beginning.With the new beginning following the Flood, God gave power over the earth to Noah and his descendants.It was a power that could easily be misused and many times has been. The floods that struck the Midwest in 1993 and the damage that was done in New Orleans are more a sign of our own stupidity and greed in trying to control the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers rather than a sign from God or a punishment.The people of this planet have long held the power to destroy this world, without the help of God. But the same powers and abilities that can lead to death and destruction are also the powers and abilities that can foster good and peace throughout the world.

    This covenant was made with the knowledge that God knew that the conditions of mankind had not changed; that the evil that was present before the flood still existed in the hearts of some. The covenant also came with a warning.God warned mankind not to shed the blood of any person.And if someone did shed blood, there would be a reckoning.It has long been assumed that before the Flood, people were responsible only for themselves; now, God holds the community responsible for punishing wrongdoing.

    If the community is to be responsible for punishing the wrongdoing, then it is also the community who should be responsible for the care of the people. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to reach out to the oppressed, the downtrodden and the rejected of the earth.Yet, we look around and see that we ignore those to whom we should be ministering.

    Clear statements must be made, not by politicians or public leaders, but private citizens asking where the care of those less-fortunate will come from.Can questions concerning poverty, health care, housing and jobs be answered when the drumbeat of war drowns out all other sounds? (2)

    There is a collective responsibility to insure that this planet remains safe to live on; yet, we reward polluters and ignore the consequences of our own anti-environmental actions.We have allowed monies that should be going to the assistance of those in need to be slashed or eliminated; we have put the burden on those without to provide for their own well being.

    This is a country that, on the outside, expresses a belief in God.This is a country that claims to have been founded on the values and traditions of Christianity.Yet, our actions speak against those values and traditions.The dignity of each individual and the respect for the well being of individuals are tossed out the window.

    We have to ask ourselves what values and traditions we hold dear to our hearts.How can we claim to be a nation of peace when we espouse violence so easily?How can we speak of the freedom to dissent, publicly or privately, when the United States Congress passes laws that take away the most basic and fundamental rights, rights established in our Constitution?

    Jesus treated everyone as an individual, even when society had cast him or her out; yet, we seemed to have forgotten this lesson.We are willing to treat an individual with less respect, simply because he is of the “wrong” ethnic background or because he doesn’t believe as we do.Those who speak out against the administration are called unpatriotic; even though that was one of the rights we sought for this country some two hundred and forty years ago.

    Hope is no longer the motivating force in our lives; it has been replaced by anxiety and fear of the unknown.But it was hope that Jesus gave to the downtrodden, it was freedom from fear that Jesus offers to us.Instead of reacting to fear and giving up hope, perhaps we should reflect on the lessons that Jesus taught us.Instead of creating situations that create fear that take away hope, perhaps we should be working to bring hope back and take away the chance for fear to grow.

    This should be a time when we should be building bridges – bridges of hope, understanding and cooperation around the world, bridges of fairness and equity, bridges of respect for the integrity of each individual, bridges of human and civil rights? These are the values that over the years that has made this nation great. Now we are isolating ourselves with massive shifts in foreign and domestic policy.

    Nearly fifty years ago President Eisenhower warned us that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” (3) We should do well to consider his words.

    The purpose of Lent is to prepare for the coming of the Lord.It is not a time of sacrifice, of giving up something that we will regain after Easter.Rather it is a time when we should give of ourselves.Peter reminded us that just as the Flood cleansed the world, so did our baptism cleanse us of our sins and allow us the opportunity for salvation.Now we know that Jesus, who was without sin, did not need to be baptized.But he was baptized because it gave him identity with the preparatory work of John the Baptist and it showed us that Jesus was willing to die for our sins.

    It is time that we seriously consider what we are going to do during this season of Lent.We often treat Lent as a temporary thing, giving us something for forty days to show that we can sacrifice.But we can never accomplish that type of sacrifice that Jesus did for us.But, then again, we do not have to make that type of sacrifice.But we have to make some changes.

    With Noah, there was a new beginning.It is a beginning that comes with a promise that we will have God with us through all times.This promise was renewed at the River Jordan when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.It is a promise that we renewed with our own baptism.Now, it is time to make that new beginning.

    We cannot spend the next forty days of Lent preparing for Easter morning and then on Easter Monday go back to what we were doing last week.We have to take these days as a chance to prepare for a better life that begins with the victory over sin and death represented by the empty tomb of Easter.Now is the time to open one’s heart and mind and let Jesus Christ in.For those who have accepted Christ, now is the time to become a true disciple of His and begin working for the completion of the Gospel message to bring hope to the downtrodden and freedom to the oppressed.

    1. Thomas Merton, in “Seasons of Celebration” as noted in Sojo mail for February 10, 2005.
    2. Portions of the following paragraphs were adapted from the e-mail “Called to be Peacemakers” written on February 27, 2003 by Mary Lu Bowen and distributed to pastors in the New York Annual Conference on March 4, 2003.
    3. April 16, 1953