Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ashes for Invitation

What are your plans for tomorrow? Let’s see: it’s Wednesday, so I have my regular schedule of meeting with people, as well as preparing for Huddle and the Celebration. But, tomorrow is a very special Wednesday; it’s the beginning of Lent.

When I was a child, Lent meant that the Catholics would come to school with Ashes on their forehead. I didn’t know what it meant, but it sure looked cool. Today, I understand that the practice of putting ashes on foreheads is a chance to take a pause, to reflect on what Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem entailed as he “set his face towards Jerusalem.”

When Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, he was telling his father that he was serious about his decision to intentionally walk to the cross. He was choosing to go the road of death for his life.
Missio Lux has chosen to adopt the practice of observing Ash Wednesday because in this busy, hurry up world, we need to schedule times of slowing down, pauses, to not miss the invitations Jesus gives to us at specific points within the church year life.

The forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter are vital to our faith because they call us to a deeper level of commitment. However, even before we can commit, we have an invitation from Jesus to be with him on the journey.

Matthew 16 ends with a conversation that Jesus has with his disciples. It takes place right after Peter tells him that “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It is at this point that the disciples move to a new place with Jesus as he begins to speak to them about his plans.

Now remember, the disciples were following Jesus in large measure because they believed he was the one who would free them from the bondage of Roman rule. When Jesus begins to speak of a death through their own religious leaders, Peter bravely steps up and tells Jesus, “No, this will never happen to you.”

Peter’s statement is often our statement. We have a picture in our minds of what we believe will happen and we want to protect that picture, often spending great amounts of energy to do it.

But, Jesus teaches us a different way: the way of invitation, the way of life coming through death. It’s paradoxical, isn’t it, because Jesus came to give us life. John 1:4 says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” Jesus says himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” But, his invitation to follow him involves dying: dying to our own ways, and becoming alive to his ways.

My encouragement to you this week is to accept the invitation to be alone with Jesus and to hear his words of challenge to us to live life on his terms. When we do this, we not only live a more obedient life, we step into the place of experiencing the freedom that comes from letting Jesus lead the journey, which always brings us to the place of greatest meaning and fulfillment.

Jesus’ Invitation to his Friends: Matthew 16:24-26:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for a person if they gains the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for their life?

Or from the Message: Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

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