Hosea 2: 14-20
MARK 2: 13-22

February 28, 2021 LENT

I am blessed … in so many ways I am blessed and I am hopeful that like me you can count your blessings and as the song goes you are able to ‘name them one by one.’

As time marches on, one of the greatest blessings that can be bestowed on any of us is witnessing how we have impacted the generations that are following us.  Young people in whom there is evidence that we have been impactful in their lives.  Young people maturing into incredibly giving, loving and caring people of faith.  Young people ready to teach the next generation about God, Jesus Christ, Scripture … essentials that truly matter beyond the world’s expectations.

The truth friends … the realistic and obvious fact of life is that life … our time … here on earth is temporary and  even though it is always changing we each have the capacity to grow and develop who we are.  We each have the potential to be a positive impact on another’s life.  We each, thanks to God’s grace and love, can find the peace and joy of being God’s child again at any time in our life. Soon the signs of aging inevitably arrive … and as we gather photo’s and memories a question I believe we need to consider is what our impact has been and still can be on those who follow.   Have others noticed our joys and embraced them.  Has our patience when other people stumbled around us been adopted by individuals witnessing those challenging moments.  The loving language we have for all people … is that the language of those who hear us because they sense the blessings and peace and yes even joy we have from not criticizing others but always forgiving in the same manner we expect God to forgive us?

And, no I am not speaking only of natural, adopted, or foster children who spend time in our homes with us because not every one of us is blessed with children and frankly no matter how hard we work at it … sometimes other influences in life cause those we attempt to raise into productive and loving adults to become people whose life results we don’t like seeing.   My consideration this morning, after I woke up to see a photo on my wall of my grandson Dax laughing with me and in that image he was looking just like me, … is the question, have we used our lives to get others to turn in the right direction or the wrong direction.  What others see is us … our actions … our words … our lives can influence their direction for life.   Have we truly heard the Psalm, “One generation shall commend Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

Have we done that?  Are you heeding the call from Acts chapter 1, the recorded last words of Jesus before He went home to God?  Jesus was asked about the political realities of the times but he basically told His followers that was none of their business. Instead, Jesus declared to them and to us the responsibility of faith, “[1]Your job will be to bear witness of me not only here but in the broadening circles throughout the earth.”  Have you not only accepted the Light of Jesus Christ for guidance but are you shining it out on your journey so others can find their way?  That they can go in the right direction not the wrong one.  Does the RIGHT DIRECTION really matter to you or is it a subterfuge you use to hide your real choice for your every direction of life?

And, in the midst of this consideration we truly need to pause in this season of Lent to admit what our relationship with the God of Creation really is and to get to work on it if we find ourselves lacking.  If you have noticed, I have had the ashes of AshWednesday present on the altar table since Lent began,  It is an reminder to us … to me … of who we are.  It is time to take Go seriously … the season of Lent to be considered as a valuable time in our lives. Forty days of renewal, revival, and the reenergizing of faith no matter what its current status might be in our lives; we all always need to reenergize our faith because the world’s influence and Evil’s power is everywhere.

Can you imagine for a moment what the God of Creation feels when another human created in the holy image has gone astray?  We only have to turn to the first creation story of Genesis to be reminded of who we each are … on the sixth day, “God then said, ‘Let us make humans in our image and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ And, God created humans in God’s image, in the image of God He created them; male and female God created them.  God blessed them …”

Well we know what happened after that blessing; God allowed humans the freedom to choose the directions we head and almost immediately chaos and sin became an option all too many focused on; they openly were rejecting the loving Creator.  Humanity created in God’s Holy Image … every human being who has ever taken in a breath of life has had the opportunity of going in either the right direction or the wrong direction not forced to move one way or the other but given the option.  A choice with consequences.

It’s a daily choice actually… hourly perhaps because we each know how easy it is to get pushed and tugged into making choices on the fly.  Many times when we wake up we have the best plans to lead a day focused on being a peacemaker and lover of all our neighbors but suddenly a news story, someone’s tweet or social media post, or perhaps just one interaction with another human being transforms us into a combatant in the world’s divisive quest to turn people against people … to leave the poor hungry … and children abandoned … and the EVIL POWER, that I believe exists, smiles again.

The Gospels teach us that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.”  Yes, God parties when people come home to God… but how sad God must be when one never gets to hear or witness what being a person of faith is all about.

In the opening of the Gospel of John we are introduced to Jesus by connecting the dots of Jesus back to the beginning of time.   In Genesis we hear that God said “let us make humans in our image.”  Now scholars have debated whether God was using the plural ‘us and our’ as a self identifier or whether God was in conversation and working with other heavenly realities.   In John, we hear that Jesus was with God from the very beginning of time.  You know the Scripture reading, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Everything came into being through the Word and without the Word nothing came into being.”

We are talking Jesus in the beginning … ‘In our image God said, let us make humanity male and female.” And the Gospels say “everything came into being through the Word and without the Word nothing came into being.”

As you consider those thoughts from our Holy Book … you do consider the Bible as significant in your lives, don’t you?  Reading a Gospel lesson daily … oh, I know I repeat myself and in this season of Lent … a time to get closer to God …. To repent and renew and reenergized faith I know we all are reading the Gospels daily if only a few verses.

In consideration of the God-Jesus connection we also need to consider our directions for life.  Are we making the right direction or the wrong one?   Who are we?

If we are willing to accept that we have some God dna in us … we are made in the image of God then when Jesus takes a look at Levi in today’s Gospel lesson Jesus is not looking at him as the human son of Alphaues but as a child of God.  Earlier in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus called out to the crowd and said, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”

Frankly, that moment of what all too many perceive as self sacrifice … as giving up stuff we love to become someone else is truthfully returning back to being the children of God whom we were created to be.  Levi chose to follow Jesus … he left his tax kiosk in the mall leaving that year’s tax returns for others to take care of if they weren’t going online … Levi a sinner but a child of God created in God’s image … stood up and changed.

The religious order … the power brokers didn’t like seeing people return to their God connections so they screamed judgment … the ones who would one day shout CRUCIFY HIM CRUCIFY HIM and rally the hate-filled crowds to believe their lies … they couldn’t accept the fact that God mattered more than the world … that Jesus teaching mattered more than their carefully nuanced phrases … friends that is why we each need to turn to Jesus … we need to hear what Jesus said … it’s recorded … it’s here in the Bible … Jesus … the right direction … please please take this season of LENT to get out of the wrong direction … don’t follow your neighbors who are bowing down even today to the golden image of their false gods … we have this one life to change and then to teach and live a life that exemplifies Jesus Christ.  Believe me the powers of the world do not want you to love your neighbors, care for the poor, and welcome those who come to you but God expects it.

Jesus uses the wineskins to remind us that we need to change … we can’t be who we were and still claim to be God’s … we can’t be part of the world and make disciples for Jesus Christ … that fresh wine is always there … God’s love and grace full of forgiveness that enables us to become new people never goes away and is there until our last breath is taken.

There are clear directions for living life God’s way … those are the RIGHT DIRECTION for our life … St Paul’s online One Room Sunday School classroom should be full of kids; it should be packed … there should be at least 100 children each Sunday if all of us invited friends and family to get their children into it.  But we don’t …

It is far easier to find the wrong directions because those are the ones that the world focuses on … those are the ones taking over future generations priorities if we remain silent … if we don’t pick up our crosses and follow Jesus … if we aren’t again reflecting the God who created us …

And, if we don’t change … if we don’t return to our original selves reflecting the image of God that we were created to be. … how are we going to have an impact for God and Christ on those who will follow.  On future generations?  On friends and family? On neighbors and co-workers?  If they see that we have taken the right direction to go against the world and follow Jesus and God they might have some questions for us but if we rush off the cliff with the other lemmings merely accepting the world why should they question and what would there be in us that they might want to take on … we’d be out there living with fear along with them rather than rescued by God.

John wrote, “The light was in the world and the world came into being through the light but the world didn’t recognize the light.  The light came to His own people and His own people didn’t welcome Him.  But who who did welcome Him … those who believed in His name … they were authorized to become the children of God born not from blood but born from God.  The WORD became flesh and made His home among them.”

And, the prophet wrote that those who come home to God will be God’s forever.  We will be loved in righteousness, in justice in devoted love and in mercy … by God and we will know God.

And, so on this Sunday in Lent … we are reminded that we need to turn in the right direction so that we can be the beacons that rescue and change lives for Jesus Christ.  A season of putting on new skins of faith … renewal, revival and reenergizing our relationship with the One whose image we are all created in.  AMEN


[1] John White, THE FIGHT; The Christian Struggle; Intervaristy Press 1977

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ