Church is like a movie. It can lull one into spectator status. You sort of hunker back and watch it all (word and sacrament are a performance after all). Most Christians tend to see Easter as the big event, so they are like folks who come into the movie and watch the last fifteen minutes. They see all the loose ends tied up, the hero emerge victorious, all's well that ends well. In many cases, already familiar with the story they feel no need for any more than the bright sunshine to end the day.
Lent is a time not only to watch and listen, but also participate. It is a movie in which we have a role. We incarnate in our (broken) lives the same story which Jesus recapitulates (He takes our life story into Himself; He is in us and we are in Him). In Lent we hear and we put into action. We eat and drink and are consumed by the Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood. And we do the works of the Kingdom (proclaim, teach, heal, exorcise--in myriad ways) until the Kingdom comes.
My associate in ministry, Fr. Rene, preached a wonderful sermon on the temptations of Christ. Using contemporary language, he said that there are three temptations which we struggle with. They are LIES! They are the words of The Liar (satan) and we are tested (the Greek word means both; tempt and test) by the demonic as it seduces with the lie, filled with half truths.
- If it feels good, do it
- look out for number one
- live for the moment
- It is good to do what feels good, except sometimes (many times) we have to do what is hard and difficult for a higher good.
- It is good to look out for number one, but we have to have the right ranking system. If we put the wrong person (me) at number one, then we will not serve the true number one. As Brian Piccolo's story reminds us God is first, others second, I am third.
- It is good to live for the moment, but it is vital to factor in the future. What other example to American's need beyond the pending financial collapse under the billions of dollars of debt. As politicians debate about "what we can afford to cut" they ignore the cold, hard facts of math. Eventually, debt is too great and it all collapses. Same for our sinful decisions.
Rene concluded that our willingness to embrace these three lies is fueled by the Mother of all Lies: Do not trust God and His pomises.
There it is. Jesus promises to die and rise again. His apostles fail to trust. They will betray and desert Him. If part of our discipleship is Sunday worship (and it is, in spite of what people say) then it is clear that on any given weekend some 50% to 70% of us are deserting Him. If prayer and study are the life breath of Christian faith, then each day we betray Him (and ourselves, those useless cisterns again). The Triune God offers us a share in His/Their Divine communal life. Jesus is the gateway to that. Incarnation, Life and Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Enthronement and Eternal Priesthood are all aspects of God's saving work. Eventually, The Kingdom will come. In the meantime, all we do and all we are is best spent in preparation for the Kingdom. Where it will feel good all the time, where we will be taken care of perfectly, where the moment is eternal and where the promise of God is fulfilled. That is the truth.