And Did You Really Give Up Chocolate?

Joshua 4: 1-19
LUKE 13: 31-35

March 13, 2022 SEASON of LENT

I don’t know about you but every time I hear Joshua’s name I start to sing the song [1]Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho’ in my mind … “and those walls came tumblin’ down.”

You may talk about your men of Gideon … you may talk about your men of Saul but there’s none like good ole Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

That song teaches kids not only how God used God’s people but how God’s people chose to work together to achieve a victory for God. It lifts up Joshua’s name but as adults when we read the Scripture lesson we know it took more than Joshua to accomplish the mission … it took people of faith making an active choice to follow God working together for God’s purpose; the same thing is true today … people of faith need to work together to insure the Light of Jesus shines and the work of God gets done.

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho .. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and those walls came …” Oops, that song keeps going around and around in my head. And, thanks to Dave Fish’s children’s lesson last week and the mere mention of Chunky … ‘OPEN WIDE FOR CHUNKY’ … did anyone else go out and buy a CHUNKY BAR?

And, did you really give up chocolate for Lent? I sure didn’t … mmm

On this second Sunday of Lent I am struggling … not to give up chocolate because I made no such pledge. My struggle is not even to maintain a hoped for change in diet because Colleen and Ryan put pizza on the table last night and the last I checked pizza has more than a few carbs but pizza is oh so good.

And, yes I am hurting at the realities of the world today, which is why I am crying inside each day; my heart aching for the children, women, and men who a month ago lived out their lives freely in the Ukraine … I mourn for the man who lost his family on the bridge to the Russian war machine and so I wear the colors of the Ukrainian flag this morning.

I am struggling in this Holy Season to once again move forward for God because of the many distractions that are part of daily life. And, I am struggling in this season of Lent because I am wondering where I can find those thousand voices who are honestly singing each day “[2]to my great Redeemer’s praise and the glories of my God and King … the triumphs of His grace!” I wonder where the faithful are when church is not in session or even when church is in session because so many pews around the world are empty and so many families will never allow their children to memorize a song of faith that will resonate in their hearts when they reach my age … which FYI is 31.

And, then I hear my Savior from today’s Gospel lesson … receiving a warning from rule-setting religious leaders that Herod wants to kill Him. I again realize that Jesus did not run … Jesus did not hide … Jesus responded, saying “Tell that fox …” I am just too busy to let him kill me right now.

But the second part of the short lesson from Luke is perhaps more appropriate for this Sunday in the season of Lent … March 13th in 2022, a date in this continuing era of history when we allow leaders to direct us into division even though in this great nation of ours we have no problems eating at restaurants with people whose politics differ from our own … none of us are throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails at the houses of people in our neighborhood who have a different ethnic heritage or religious history than ours … we even go to work where we accomplish tasks together and we allow our kids and our grandchildren to play together even though we root for differing sports teams; all races, backgrounds, political leanings, accents just people living out life … yet to hear the news we should be spitting at each other and attacking good people just because those we elect to office say so and those talking heads on TV implore us to do so; that’s not entertainment folks if you are attracted to those messages for your spare moments.

We have allowed those leaders to control our angst, to determine our suffering, and to whisper into our ears telling us what the words and messages we should be posting on social media are. Their directions seem to matter more to all too many people than a life reflection of “in my words Lord be glorified … be glorified.”

Have we become too busy to care about the impressions we make through a keystroke or an enraged whisper that basically is a ditto mark or quotation tied to a disconnect with any human being who is not like us or with whom we disagree. With so many church steeples populating the landscape, one would think that that our chatter, the whispers you hear, the social media of our world would follow the message of Scripture to love God and love all of our neighbors but that’s one that seems lost beyond church walls. My struggle is that we seem to have allowed the loving message of God that we received through Jesus Christ to die or at least to become buried away hidden from our own personal comments … if you listen to our politicians you’d think they are doing a happy dance when Jesus is shut down … just like the leaders in His day.

Yes, I am struggling and mourning and wondering how many people embrace the world disconnecting from Jesus but they still have been able to find time in their lives to give up chocolate for Lent. And, they even claim to do it for Lent … the Holy Season of God.

There is an amazing love story in God’s Word … there is an awesome truth in God’s desire to connect with humanity that comes from God’s grace … God’s love .. AMAZING GRACE that does not require any of us to do back flips or to quote Scripture from verse one chapter one through the end of our Holy Book. We only have to truly believe … not just in word but in our life actions. James clarifies what it means to believe, “My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith CAN NOT save anyone can it? Faith is dead when it does not result in faithful activity.”

God offers us hope … [3]Jesus, the name that charms our fears that bids our sorrows cease” … by the way Jesus did what He did for people like you and me … actually for every person including all of those who are not like you and me. He went to the cross that was slammed into the ground. The nail pounders and the unison chanters inspired and directed by power-lusting rule setting religious folks who had disdain and fear of God’s truth … He took the cross for you and me and those people at work and at the grocery store whose kids hang out with your kids and grand kids … God chose to sacrifice Jesus so that we didn’t have to bring an ox to a burning fire when we worship … we only have to believe. Jesus “[4]breaks the power of cancelled sin” because friends JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>>

And, here in the Lenten Season I am struggling because I know I need to give up the world more to get closer and closer to God and I know the life clock is ticking away …. Second-by-second … will Dax see Jesus through me? Through Donna? Through Megan or his parents? Will some of my friends never know God and Christ because of my inaction?

I knew that I could eat this Chunky bar and last night’s pizza because Lent is not about giving up chocolate but rather it is a call for us to get closer to God … to focus in on living for Jesus. Rediscovering that it isn’t that hard to use our lives to glorify God while also offering the most loving gift we can ever share with our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers … the gift of enteral life with God once the fast moving clocks of life here on earth are over. We lost an hour last night but how many people whom we each know have already lost eternity?

Joshua was chosen by God to take on the leadership of the people of God. We easily recall the Red Sea’s parting but God also opened up the Jordan River so that the people could pass to safety. One man from each tribe was chosen to plant a stone to place in the Jorden River … a memorial to the miracle of God … a message for future generations under the waters of the river twelve stones marking where the Covenant Chest of the Lord had passed over into Israel.

Friends, there is truly a responsibility for those of us who believe to remember how we came to know the Lord … there is a call for us to share our stories; to lift up testimonies of faith so that others will know the value .. the essential nature of our faith. We need to use the Holy season to give up the world and get closer to God rather than friends turning to us and declaring “Did you really give up chocolate” for Lent? Is that what Lent means to you … Easter being the reopening of the chocolate vault rather than God’s love being exposed for the world through a Risen Savior?

St. Augustine, one of the early leaders of the Christian church, when writing about the life’s journey of people of faith wrote, “For now we are pilgrims … walking by the kind of faith that holds fast to the inner vision of what we shall be when He appears.”

So, today, I do not know if you are struggling as I struggle with the condition of the world but whether you are or not, my question remains how are you using this unique season of Lent, which may be for some their last, to get closer to God or are you using the season to show your friends that a Holy Season is all about your relationship to the world? God’s love is ready to reenergize your inner vision so that you will be ready when you come face-to-face with Jesus … you just have to let the Spirit in.

Then imagine … imagine a world where thousands and thousands of voices are focused not on division nor strife but on our great Redeemer’s praise! Be the example … do as Joel declares, “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” We are the children of God … God loves each of us merely calling us to love God back and to love all of our neighbors and to live our lives as if we truly believe and that is not about chocolate nor pizza and carbs but about Jesus Christ. AMEN

[1] Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, American Spiritual published 1882 Jubilee Songs
[2] O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Wesley
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid

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