Happy Easter, blog readers! I hope you are having a joyous and blessed day.
The most memorable statement from my pastor this morning in regards to Easter: “So many people live as though Jesus is still buried.” God made me–check. Jesus died for my sins–check. But how often do I think upon the resurrection? Jesus died for my sins…and then he rose again! He not only accepted my punishment, and died in my place. That would make him a true friend indeed. My redeemer. The sacraficial lamb. But then…he rose. He died, but he is not dead. He is alive. That makes him my Savior, and the Lamb of God. The conqueror of sin and death.
Have you heard those words before? “He conquered sin and death.” “The Lamb of God.” “Jesus died for our sins.” “On the third day he rose again.” I certainly have. Repeatedly. I don’t know about you, but it was the repetition that kept me from believing them. I didn’t disbelieve on purpose, I just heard and spoke those words habitually, like tying your shoes. My mouth knows what to do, no need to engage my brain! It took reading an account of Jesus death on the cross that was worded very, very differently to bring me to him. The words of repetition, the rituals of my childhood…they kept me in the right neighborhood, so to speak. But I circled the block for 22 years before I finally found Jesus’ driveway.
Not to beat the metaphor to death. 🙂
So, if you heard the familiar words today, and you were not moved to your core by their meaning…may I encourage you to dig deeper? Rewrite the story. Pretend you are the preacher, and preach the gospel to yourself in a way that you will hear it, and understand it, and know it.
Sidenote…I’m looking for a good youtube video of “Roll Away the Stone,” a hymn we sang this morning. To be fair, home videos do not have great sound to begin with. But there just isn’t a good one. Poor musicianship, inconsistent rhythm, pitchy singing. I wonder what keeps people in church sometimes. I mean, I am a follower of Jesus because God speaks the truth, and the gospel is absolute truth. That won’t change, whether I go to church, whether I don’t go to church, whether I label myself Catholic or Protestant or whatever. But there are two things that keep me coming back to a church: message and music. My church has both. I get that not everyone is connected by music, but a lot of people are! Music has the power to move people, to bring forth emotions and draw people closer to God. They might go to church because they feel that it’s the right thing to do, or out of habit, or whatever. But does anything happen while they are there to draw them closer to God??? Message and music. Message and music.
Soapbox put away now, I promise. 🙂
People give something up for Lent because they are looking for transformation. I said that sentence aloud to a friend at the beginning of Lent, when we were talking about why people who don’t go to church, but were raised in Catholic culture, still give something up for Lent. We give something up because we want to be different. We are looking for something, anything, that will change us into the people we want to be.
I gave up coffee. I always try to give up something that I really like, but something that I can legitimately have back on Easter. I don’t want to give something up with the hope that I will be giving it up forever. There is nothing inherently wrong with coffee. My problem with coffee is that I use it as a substitute for taking care of myself, for keeping a balanced schedule that allows me to get the rest I need. Primarily, I get in a bad habit of rolling out of bed too late to do my morning quiet time, and counting on a nice caffeine high to replace the calm focus of God’s word to start my day. (That sounds like a simplistic one-or-the-other statement, but that is the habit I’ve gotten into.) I was hoping for transformation of learning to rely on God, rather than stimulants.
It was both a great success and a great failure.
It was a success because I didn’t cheat, not once, not one tiny little sip. Often my Lenten sacrafice doesn’t turn out that way! I had a lovely caramel latte smoothie today with a clear conscious, so to speak. I felt the joy that I had successfully given up caffeine for the entire season of Lent, despite all the temptation and suffering that I endured.
It was a failure, because I did not transform. I suffered. A lot. (Compared to sickness and starvation and natural disasters? No. But bear with me anyway.) I did not seek God. I did not balance my schedule or get more sleep. I did not begin my days with a quiet focus on God’s Word. I went through my days knowing that it would have been better if I had, but I didn’t change anything.
I am going through some difficult things and some not-so-difficult things right now. With both, God will give me the strength I need. But he doesn’t package it in double-shot iced lattes. Or anything else of this world. The majority of what I “need,” I don’t need. In a worldly way, caffeine solves the problem of being energetic and focused. But it doesn’t give me what I need. Only God can do that.