Smudgy Foreheads

 

ashes

Snark Meter.005

Wednesday you will notice people with smudgy foreheads. When you see this, resist your inner-parent urging you to dab at them with a moist napkin. They are not the victims of poor grooming habits, nor have they lost a dare. It is merely Ash Wednesday, the day in which Christians of the ancient traditions commemorate the beginning of the season of Lent by attending religious services in which they were charged to, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:19)

What is Lent?

Lent, is the archaic word for “Spring.” It has come to refer to the 40 days of spiritual preparation preceding Easter. Christians traditionally spend the season before Easter in repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial in an effort to remember our need for God and God’s great saving acts in the passion and resurrection of Jesus. (40 is symbolic of Jesus’ 40 days fasting and temptation in the wilderness)

Where did it come from?

The tradition of ashes has its roots in the ancient Jewish prophets who urged “repent in sackcloth and ashes.” Among Christians, the imposition of ashes and the 40 day fast began in Europe in the 4th century.

What’s the point?

Ash Wednesday and Lent are not about spiritual brownie points, impressing God, nor making belated New Year’s resolutions, like dropping that last five pounds by cutting chocolate.  Rather, Lent is about mindfulness – Thinking more about God and others, and less of ourselves. Christians are penitent during Lent because we are grateful for God’s provision for humanity through Jesus.

We go to church on Ash Wednesday to be marked outwardly with ashes as we remind ourselves inwardly of our need for the unquenchable, fierce love of God to enliven us.

Christians of the ancient tradition spend 40 days in Lenten practices, either giving up something we enjoy and/or taking on a new spiritual activity. The mindfulness generated by self-denial and self-discipline prepare our hearts to be more fully present for the remembrance of the saving acts of Jesus during Holy Week.

What happens at an Ash Wednesday service?

They are usually brief. You will hear biblical passages calling people to repentance and have ashes imposed on your forehead with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19) Holy Communion is then celebrated.

Checking out a service…

You do not need to be a member to attend. EVERYONE is welcome at an Ash Wednesday service. EVERYONE is invited to receive ashes. Although different churches have different rules for receiving communion, in the Episcopal church our canons ask you to be a baptized Christian to receive communion. (If you are not baptized you may simply stay in your seat or come forward with the congregation, arms crossed, to receive a blessing).

Tired of the noise?

In the midst of debates and news cycles and narcissism, when even America’s pastor urges us to be our own “I Am”, engaging in self-examination and the contemplating our own mortality is refreshingly against-the-grain. Ash Wednesday and Lent create space to become more aware of our need for reconciliation with God and others. Ash Wednesday is an active way to do that with the support of other seekers. This Wednesday, find a service and attend!

Advertisements

Smudgy foreheads

ashes

Snark Meter.005

Wednesday you will notice people with smudgy foreheads. When you see this, resist your inner-parent urging you to dab at them with a moist napkin. They are not the victims of poor grooming habits, nor have they lost a dare. It is merely Ash Wednesday, the day in which Christians of the ancient traditions commemorate the beginning of the season of Lent by attending religious services in which they were charged to, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:19)

What is Lent?

Lent, is the archaic word for “Spring.” It has come to refer to the 40 days of spiritual preparation preceding Easter. Christians traditionally spend the season before Easter in repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial in an effort to remember our need for God and God’s great saving acts in the passion and resurrection of Jesus. (40 is symbolic of Jesus’ 40 days fasting and temptation in the wilderness)

Where did it come from?

The tradition of ashes has its roots in the ancient Jewish prophets who urged “repent in sackcloth and ashes.” Among Christians, the imposition of ashes and the 40 day fast began in Europe in the 4th century.

What’s the point?

Ash Wednesday and Lent are not about spiritual brownie points, impressing God, nor making belated New Year’s resolutions, like dropping that last five pounds by cutting chocolate.  Rather, Lent is about mindfulness – Thinking more about God and others, and less of ourselves. Christians are penitent during Lent because we are grateful for God’s provision for humanity through Jesus.

We go to church on Ash Wednesday to be marked outwardly with ashes as we remind ourselves inwardly of our need for the unquenchable, fierce love of God to enliven us.

Christians of the ancient tradition spend 40 days in Lenten practices, either giving up something we enjoy and/or taking on a new spiritual activity. The mindfulness generated by self-denial and self-discipline prepare our hearts to be more fully present for the remembrance of the saving acts of Jesus during Holy Week.

What happens at an Ash Wednesday service?

They are usually brief. You will hear biblical passages calling people to repentance and have ashes imposed on your forehead with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19) Holy Communion is then celebrated.

Checking out a service.

You do not need to be a member to attend. EVERYONE is welcome at an Ash Wednesday service. EVERYONE is invited to receive ashes. Although different churches have different rules for receiving communion, in the Episcopal church our canons ask you to be a baptized Christian to receive communion. (If you are not baptized you may simply stay in your seat or come forward with the congregation, arms crossed, to receive a blessing).

Tired of the noise?

In the midst of debates and news cycles and narcissism, when even America’s pastor urges us to be our own “I Am”, engaging in self-examination and the contemplating our own mortality is refreshingly against-the-grain. Ash Wednesday and Lent create space to become more aware of our need for reconciliation with God and others. Ash Wednesday is an active way to do that with the support of other seekers. I encourage you this Wednesday, find a service and attend!

Game on. A sermon for Ash Wednesday

sermon

Snark MeterrealMID.003

Here is my Ash Wednesday sermon…not because I am convinced of it’s internet worthiness, but because friends have asked me to share it since I posted on the topic twice this week. 

Scripture: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 •  Psalm 51:1-17  •  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10  •  Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Welcome to Spring Training! 

That is what Lent is: Spring Training for the Christian life.  You know Spring Training. It’s where players:

– Find out what they’ve got.

– Learn new skills.

– Figure out what they still need to work on.

Today, Ash Wednesday, is Opening Day.

Now that you are in the ballpark we are going to spend the next 40 disciplined days getting ready for the regular season- life.

I am not a baseball guy. I don’t know much about the game. But one thing I do know is that the person who throws out the first pitch is generally a pretty bad baseball player. Have you ever seen a first pitch? Sometimes it goes into the stands. Sometimes it drops off of the pitcher’s hand and rolls to a stop halfway to the plate.  It us usually thrown out by some famous non-baseballer: an elderly ex-Senator, an opera singer, or a guy who made millions inventing the home latte maker.

Unfortunately, our first liturgical “pitch” on Ash Wednesday, like most first pitches, is a bit off kilter. You should probably know that I am a HUGE prayer book fan. So much so that I am accused of having a crush on all things Anglican. My evangelical friends are adamant that I am a non-objective shill for the Episcopal Church. I can’t help it though. The wisdom and care and catholicity of our prayer book is legendary. But, in an effort to prove them wrong, I have scoured the prayer book and found two things that I wish were not there: One of them is the opening prayer from tonight’s service. I suspect that whoever wrote the opening prayer for Ash Wednesday must be famous – It’s that bad. The theology umpire in me calls, “Foul.”

Here it is again: “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made (We are looking good through the windup) and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: (still not bad) Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins (Oops. Problems on the release.) and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;  (And the ball is in the dirt.)

The idea that we are somehow “worthy” in our lamenting or forgiven BECAUSE we are penitent is a theological “Swing and a miss.” We are not rendered worthy through our repentance and we aren’t forgiven through a perfected penitence. That prayer makes it sound as if we are cute and cuddly- as if God is lucky to have such holy creatures as us on his team.

The truth is that we are forgiven because God is so forgiving. It is God’s nature to reconcile fallen humans to himself. It is God’s nature to make all things right…satisfying both his holiness and love in Jesus Christ and giving a new nature freely to humans. It is our nature to jack things up. Give me a relationship: I’ll mess that up. Children: I’ll mess them up. A political system: Oops. A planet: Our track record there isn’t so good either.

Forgiveness, you see, is given not earned… given to humans at the Father’s initiation and the Son’s expense…and that we are drawn to by the Holy Spirit’s wooing – The entirety of the trinity is involved in human salvation. Given the mess we have made of things, the basis for our forgiveness can hardly be our penitence.

We ARE forgiven because we WERE forgiven…on Calvary. That forgiveness was proven three days later as a risen Lord strode from the mouth of an empty tomb. And that is why we are penitent: We have seen the great acts of God on our behalf and we walk in gratitude of God’s love lavished upon us. Obedience is the response to God’s favor, not the price of it. God’s provision provokes our response.

And so, in anticipation of celebrating those holy mysteries at Easter, we begin tonight Lenten disciplines, either giving up something that we enjoy and/or taking on a new spiritual activity: self-denial and self-discipline to remind us of the greatness of our God.

Luckily our liturgy pivots rapidly from the off target opening pitch as we move quickly to the Old Testament prophet Joel. Joel reminds us that God has a right to be ticked at our forgetfulness of God. Joel asks us to “rend our hearts and not our garments.”  God desires an internal brokenness – for brokenness allows God’s love to seep through the cracks in our hard outer shells of self-reliance and transform us from the inside out.

Then we have Psalm 103 in which, just as a good dad “has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him – he remembers that we are dust.”   He remembers. Do we?

Then comes our Gospel passage: “Beware of practicing your piety before others.”  Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t trust in your very religious religiosity.”  Can you think of a single time Jesus had something positive to say to those very religious Pharisees who trusted in their religiosity? Neither can I.

Finally, in 2nd Corinthians, chronologically the last of tonight’s passages to be composed, Paul entreats us, “on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”- Paul spells it out: the righteousness of God comes, not from us: It is “of GOD.” The relationship between our repentance and God’s forgiveness is “because of” not “in order to.”

This passage, by the way, is finishing a sentence in which Paul is exhorting the Church, us, to be “Ambassadors for Christ,” bearers of the message of reconciliation…So “You be reconciled,” Paul says, “because for our sake he made (Jesus) to be sin”…the one who had never known sin, “so that” (because of, in order, with the result) “that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. “

Let that sink in:

-The holy God of creation, whose moral perfection was such that the greatest of his servants, Moses, could only see God’s back as he passed by.

-Whose holiness was so terrifying that, when Moses went up the mountain, the Israelites could only stand at a distance gazing up at that terrifying cloud.

-A God so pure that the ark representing his presence couldn’t be touched with human hands, even to protect it, without them being struck down…

THAT God has declared us to be THAT “righteousness” in his sight.

…and, then, even further, he longs to give us the ministry of reconciling others to his holiness and love.

A high and holy calling awaits us. That is why our humility before God is not just a nice ashy experience for ourselves – We are to be a light to others. We are to increase in love and mercy as we seek Christ. And that increase in love is supposed to be public. Public in order to help to others come to know the love of our Savior, Jesus.

Lent is God calling us deeper into deep – to remold us into the image of his Son and to send us to gather our friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers to his love.

And so we come tonight to be marked outwardly with ashes to remind ourselves inwardly that we are dust.

But we are redeemed dust.  Grateful dust. Dust with a purpose.

And then we will come again to the table with hands outstretched to receive the grace of God anew.

It is a slow process, this becoming like Christ – A long obedience in the same direction. Consuming Jesus and being consumed by him. So, this evening, I exhort you, engage and cooperate. Engage with the prayers. Cooperate with the symbols. Surrender afresh to the Lord of the prayers and symbols, and come, kneel, reach out your hands and receive, and, as the Psalmist said, “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Game on!

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 11.16.47 PM

Ash Wednesday for Newbies

ash-wednesday

Snark Meter.005

Do not be surprised this week when your co-workers and neighbors appear with smudgy foreheads. You will be tempted to grab a Kleenex and help them rub out the vaguely cross-shapen smears. Resist this urge. They have not become hygienically challenged – It is Ash Wednesday!

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Lent, an archaic word for “spring,” came to refer to a season of spiritual “training” in the Christian year preceding Easter – Sort of a “spring training” for the spiritual life. Christians in the ancient traditions spend the 6 weeks before Holy Week in repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial in an effort to remember the greatness of God at Easter. Ash Wednesday kicks it all off.

Where did it come from?

The tradition of ashes has its roots in the ancient Jewish prophets (“repent in sackcloth and ashes“). Among Christians, the imposition of ashes associated with a 40 day fast began in the 4th century. Most likely this fast was the Lenten fast, but the evidence is a bit spotty. By the end of the 10th century, though, it was a long-standing custom in Western Europe for the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lent. In 1091, Pope Urban II extended the practice to Rome.

What do you do?

If you attend an Ash Wednesday service you will hear Holy Scriptures calling us to repentance read, have ashes imposed on your forehead with the counter-cultural words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19), and then go forward, empty handed, to receive the Lord’s Supper.

Afterward people go forth to spend 40 days in Lenten practices, either giving up something we enjoy and/or taking on a new spiritual activity. Self-denial and self-discipline prepare our hearts to recall the saving acts of Jesus during Holy Week.

Why?

Contrary to common opinion, Ash Wednesday and Lent are not about spiritual brownie points, impressing God, nor  making belated New Year’s resolutions – like dropping that last five pounds by cutting chocolate.  It is instead about mindfulness. When we think about God, well that is a good thing. By the way, Christians are penitent during Lent because we are grateful for God’s provision in his Son, Jesus. We go to church on Ash Wednesday to be marked outwardly with ashes as we remind ourselves inwardly of our need for the unquenchable, fierce love of God to enliven us.

Can I come?

Yes! You can find an Ash Wednesday service at any Episcopal/Anglican or Roman Catholic Church. Services are usually offered multiple times per day. You do not need to be a member. Everyone is welcome. Although in Roman Catholic churches there are requirements for receiving communion, and Episcopal churches ask you to be baptized for communion, everyone can receive ashes.

I invite you, come to church this Ash Wednesday!

Lent: Spring Training for Christians

Lent Spring Training.001
Snark Meter.005

Wednesday is the Opening Day of Spring Training.

“Lent” is the Dutch and archaic English word for “Spring.” It came to refer to the season of spiritual “training” in the Christian year – hence, “Spring Training.” Play along with the analogy for a moment: Spring Training is where baseball players find out what they’ve got, where they learn and experiment with new skills, and where they figure out what they still need to hone for the regular season. Lent is the Church’s 40-day preparation for the regular season-the rest of life.

And Opening Day, Ash Wednesday, is this week.

Spiritual preparation

Lent is a spiritual practice. Spiritual practices, or disciplines prepare and free us, much the way a great hitter’s thousands of swings, day in and day out, give him the freedom to hit pitches a lesser batter wouldn’t dare swing at, or the way the apostle John’s years in prayer wore out his knees but shaped him into the apostle of love. Lenten practices, over time, produce a freedom, and open us for the grace of God to more fully shape and captivate us.

No “brownie points” are given

Contrary to a common opinion, Ash Wednesday and Lent are not about spiritual brownie points, merit-earning, or God impressing. Neither is it a way to make belated New Year’s resolutions – like dropping that last five pounds by cutting chocolate. No human is rendered worthy through repentance. Worry not, theological policeman: ashes, penitence, and Lenten disciplines are not works to earn God’s forgiveness.

Forgiveness is earned

Forgiveness is earned though…just not by us. Forgiveness was earned by God at God’s initiation and God’s expense. We ARE forgiven because we WERE forgiven – on Calvary. Our forgiveness was proven three days later as a risen Lord walked victorious from the mouth of an empty tomb. That is why we are penitent – We have seen the great acts of God on humanity’s behalf. Our efforts are merely “training” in walking in gratitude of that gift.

And so, in anticipation of celebrating anew the Easter event, we spend 40 days in Lenten practices, either giving up something we enjoy and/or taking on a new spiritual activity. Self-denial and self-discipline remind us of the greatness of our God and Savior.

What happens at an Ash Wednesday service?

If you attend an Ash Wednesday service (you can find one at any Episcopal/Anglican or Roman Catholic Church) you will listen to Holy Scriptures calling us to repentance, have ashes imposed on your forehead to remind you, “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19), and then we will go forward, empty handed, to receive the Lord’s Supper.

The tradition of the ashes began as early as the 4th century, associated with a 40 day fast. Most likely this fast was the Lenten fast, but the evidence is spotty. It is clear that by the end of the 10th century it was a longstanding custom in Western Europe for the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lenten fast. In 1091, Pope Urban II extended the tradition to the church in Rome.

The Scripture readings point us toward our need for humility before God. We will read from the prophet Joel who reminds us that God is rightfully upset at our forgetfulness of both him and the least of his creatures. Joel implores us to, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.”  – It is an internal brokenness God desires, for it is through brokenness that God’s love seeps through the cracks of our hard outer shells of self-reliance and idolatry and transforms us from the inside out.

We will also read 2nd Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, in which Paul entreats us “be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – A righteousness not from us: It is “of God.” This passage begins with the completion of a sentence in which Paul is exhorting the Church to be “Christ’s Ambassadors,” bearers of the message of reconciliation.

Seriously?

Did the gravity of that sink in? The holy Lord of all creation…the God whom the Israelites in the wilderness trembled at a distance as he hid his holiness in a terrifying cloud atop a mountain…the God whose moral perfection and purity was such that Moses could only see God’s back as he passed by…the God whose ark representing his presence couldn’t be touched, even in its defense, without the offender being struck down…THAT holy God makes us to be THAT righteousness in his sight.

…Even more, that same God calls us to the high and holy calling of reconciling other broken humans to himself.

So the reason Christians are penitent at Lent is that our spiritual life isn’t just a nice experience for ourselves. We acknowledge a calling far beyond human reason or human capacity. Our hope is that, by being increased in love and mercy as we pursue Christ, we would be a help to others in their journey toward the Savior. Lent is an opportunity for God to call us deeper into himself and his high and holy purpose of pointing our friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers to the great mercy of the Triune One.

And so we will go to church on Ash Wednesday to be marked outwardly with ashes as we remind ourselves inwardly that, “We are dust.” But we are redeemed dust.  Grateful dust. Dust with a purpose.

Spring Training is upon us!

Come find out what you’ve got. Learn and experiment with new skills. Figure out what you still need to hone. Every once in a while a professional athlete, for one reason or another misses Spring Training. It almost always shows. Would you like to be more serious about your spiritual “game”? Ash Wednesday is a great place to start.

Todd, adoption, and a briar patch: Glimpses of God at work

Broken_glass

Facebook gets a lot of grief, but I have a confession, I like Facebook.

It allows me to peek into people’s joys and struggles, rejoice and grieve with friends, and spurs me to pray more. I keep in touch with people I would never see.

One of those I would never see is Todd. We went to elementary and high school together. We were never really close. Todd and I didn’t run in the same crowd. I always appreciated Todd. He was kind to a girl with special needs once in 6th grade. Kids were not nice to people who were different back then. But Todd was. No one can remember the girl’s name even though she went to our school for two years. We just called her “Gomper,” the name of a local program for kids with disabilities. She had a neck brace and her head seemed too small. Social Darwinism was the rule of the day and we all wanted to be part of the crowd. Make no mistake, the crowd” was the one above you, not the one below. So no one talked to Gomper. Some talked at her, but only if they were getting social mileage at her expense. Not Todd. One day Todd stopped a spring loaded door from smashing Gomper. Some kids were waiting to see it happen. They were upset with Todd.

Thirty years later Todd hit me up on FB. I was having a bit of a bad week when his friend request came. I asked him why he had looked me up after all these years. His answer stunned me: “You were the only cool kid who was nice to me.” First of all, I wasn’t actually a cool kid. I was more associated with cool kids. Second, I was not aware that I had been nice to him at all – my lack of social awareness is not a new thing.

I closed my laptop and reflected on my life – my history and the events that have shaped me. It dawned on me: Although I have inadvertently been a jerk to a few on my journey, I  go out of my way to be kind to people. Looking back this seemed odd since I really didn’t have much spare social capital. As I sat wondering why I had spent the better part of a life giving status away, it dawned on me: I  know what rejection feels like. And I don’t want others to feel it.

I realized that there is something Gospel happening in me that I did not expect: God is redeeming my dysfunctions. The great act of redemption, or as the last centuries preachers called it, “the great doctrines of the cross” do involve God forgiving the penalty of sin. But God is also healing the pain of sin. Over the course of my life, with the help of good friends, God, and time, the deep wounds have healed over. The scars are fading. The stories I tell about the lack of hope under the surface of the snarky and attention seeking teenager I once was, feel like I am telling someone else’s stories.

But here is the big surprise, God has not taken away the power of sin in my life. That one God is doing something very different with: redeeming it. Through the fierce grace of the crucified and risen one, the Holy Spirit is reclaiming and transforming my dysfunctions, the sins committed upon me and by me, the ones that held sway over how I saw myself and how I behaved – those are the places my life is actually having the most impact. And that, I am learning, is “thy Kingdom come.”

Don’t misunderstand, my life hasn’t been horrible. But it hasn’t been a bed of roses either. Maybe more of a briar patch: Green yes, but some sharp stuff there too. But God is taking my brokenness and using that which caused the most pain to bless both me and others. Here are a couple for size…

-I was an unwanted child. Given up at birth. Today I instinctively look for the neglected in a room.

-My dad, whom I love dearly and have a good relationship with today, was busy. He eventually left our family for another woman. God is redeeming that too: Being a man my children can do more than love, but like and respect is a true joy. The value I place on remaining close in head and heart with Kari was birthed in the briar patch of infidelity.

-I grew up outside the faith, outside of the message of God’s relentless grace. I first heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion as a fresh high school graduate at a Young Life camp in 1982.  It was all I could do to keep from standing up in the middle of 300 students and yelling, “Tell me more!” It was too good to be true, this message of God’s unearned favor. Favor purchased not by my ability to get the attention of my father, but by the Father’s attentiveness to the world to gift his son. This son offered himself on a cross, as St. Peter says, “the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.” God is redeeming even my lack of knowledge of him: To this day I cannot speak of Jesus’ passion without tears in my eyes. I am still grateful to my toes for the hope God brought me through his passion.

My deepest wounds have taught me that all is grace.

Or could be if we would allow it.

Don’t mistake me. I am not winking away pain. I’m not pretending that the hard things didn’t hurt. They did. I have seen too much pain, wept with too many who have been harmed, and sat with too many in death. But those things are being transformed by a God who stared death in the face, took everything death could dish out and handed it back saying, “not today, sir.” For the high price paid by Christ and offered freely – How could I possibly respond to God with anything but the “thank you” of my life? How could we, as  family of grace possibly do life without room for others?

So I give grace. To a fault. I get burned. I get ripped off. I have to be mindful not to expose those under my care to dangerous people. I give too much grace. How can I not, so much has been given to me? Living in the desert I only discovered a few years ago that my favorite food, blackberries, grow on briars. It seems appropriate somehow, God bringing all that tart sweetness from a bramble.

In the movie “Prince of Persia” there is a scene in the desert. The prince is marching across a wasteland into the enemies’ territory. The captured princess (and love interest) is frustrated at his foray. She mocks him. “You even walk like one, the arrogant walk of a prince of Persia.” Dastal, the prince, confesses his secret, “I wasn’t born  a prince at all. I was an urchin.” It was an era without social mobility, so amazed, the princess asks, “How?” “I don’t know,” Dastal responds, “He chose me. He found me and brought me into his home. He is all I have.”

Gratitude. Dependence. Loyal love. Those are what knowing that he was adopted gave Dastal. It is what my welcome into the Kingdom, by our adopting God, has given me. It is what God offers you. On Ash Wednesday we say, “Remember we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” This is not medieval self-abasement. It is remembering who we are and whose we are: chosen, adopted children of the King. It is about remembering so that we  live a Eucharistic (“thanksgiving”) life.

I give grace because I have received it. And the grace I give will never begin to equal the grace I have been given. Partially because when we extend grace, more grace if given. Have you experienced grace, the absolute unearned love of God showered upon your heart? Have you experienced the reality that John describes: “To all who receive him, even to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.”

There is an undeniable brokenness that comes with being human. And, lest we forget, life reminds us all sooner or later. We can deny it. Pretend it doesn’t hurt. Tough it out. But why? Our pain has been purchased. Redeemed like a soda bottle bought back by the corner grocer. There has been a transaction on your behalf. You aren’t just God’s child by birth. You have been chosen and redeemed on a cross. You have been adopted as God’s own: a prince/princess of the Almighty, called into relationship with the entire Holy Trinity for all eternity. You have been given a task and a mission to accomplish. God desires to give each of us grace, and through us, to extend that grace.

For you to be someone’s Todd.

And for someone else to be yours.

So there is no such thing as the unwanted in God’s economy.

No such thing as being Fatherless.

No such thing as a life without a high and holy calling.

But we can live like there is. Some here are walking away from their adoption. Some are keeping the Father at arms length. For you I have one question: ARE YOU NUTS!

There is an expression that kids were using a few years ago. “Are you pickin’ up what I am layin’ down?” God sent his son to lay his life down for you. So that you could have life. Are you picking up what he laid down?

It is specifically through brokenness that God brings forth beauty. But God is no bully and only works when our brokenness is surrendered.

Empty briars or ripe berries? Orphaned or adopted? Sin that so easily entangles or pain fiercely redeemed? The “yes” of your life by faith makes all the difference.