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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 2012

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

February 22nd is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a season that is marked by repentance and sacrifice as we meditate upon our depraved sinfulness and the sacrificial mercy of God in Jesus Christ. We mourn over the fact that we do not love God with our whole heart nor our neighbor as ourselves and we sit in humble amazement at the Savior who loves us so much that He shed His blood to forgive us. Our lack of love for God and neighbor flow from our core sin of selfishness. We are always turned in on ourselves, seeing how we can use God and our neighbor for our advantage. Even our love, at its best, is tainted by the search for self-satisfaction.

God loves differently. God loves selflessly. God loves sacrificially. God loves with only His beloved (you!) in mind. Consider the life of Jesus. He served God perfectly as one of us, loving His Father's will above all else. He loved humanity perfectly by healing, forgiving, and reconciling us to God, even though we sinned against Him and tried to use Him. Both His obedience to God and love for His brothers and sisters leads Him to the cross, where God punishes Him for our disobedience to the Law, and Jesus hangs as our sacrificial substitute. "This is love," St. John says, "not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

And so, with this in mind we come to Lent. How do we typically celebrate Lent? By giving something up, right? Historically, the church has practiced making sacrifices during Lent to cause us to focus on our sin and God's mercies. However, I think in our day and age we have gotten off track here. We have turned the 40 day Lenten fast into an impetus for self-help. Our focus is on dieting or self-improvement, not the bloody death of Jesus and the needs of our neighbor. Our efforts and sacrifices are "me-centered" and not focused either on God or on our neighbor. We find ourselves using this season of repentance and self-denial for improving our health or fixing our bad habits.

So what if we did Lent differently this year? What if, instead of using this season for our own self-projects, we let the Lord use it to teach us repentance and love; self-sacrifice and worship? To that end, this Lent, I am going to be providing the church with a 40-Day devotional which will challenge us to look outside of ourselves and to focus our eyes on Jesus and our neighbor. With the Epistle of James as our guide, we will be convicted by the Law of God, driven to repentance, and guided by the love that is ours in Christ Jesus. Every day we will be challenged to express our faith in repentance and acts of service. Our Wednesday evening services will focus on the major themes in James' letter.

It is my prayer that this Lent will be one of repentance and service where our hearts are fixed on Jesus and our hands are serving our neighbors. Such an effort is bound to cause conviction over sin, so we take up such an effort confident in our baptisms, that Christ has chosen us, forgiven us, redeemed us, and empowered us to carry out His will! As we seek to love God and our neighbor, may our weak efforts be laid at the foot of the cross, where Christ's weakness is our strength!

Pastor Bob

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Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email