Standing behind this man at Costco, he turned and said “We all get to wait.” I laughed and said, “I consider it good practice. I need to learn to breathe into waiting in life.” “What do you do?” he asked. Surprised, I said, “I’m a pastor of a local church.” “You are! I thought you must be connected somehow to Jesus. You just shine.” “Well, thank you sir. I didn’t feel especially shiny today, so that is great to hear.” That launched a conversation that lasted about 15 minutes about his life and mine, about Jesus, and the impact he has had on our lives.
That day I left Costco deeply thankful that Jesus shows through my eyes. Jesus wants us to live our lives so that they carry a kind of light that is visible, a kind of hope, a kind of salt that adds flavor. Some days I can feel like the light is dim or the salt is lacking flavor, but then encounters like this one demonstrate that God is at work through me no matter what I might be feeling beneath the surface.
Lent is a great time of year to pay attention. How is your spiritual life?
We take our cars in for regular oil changes or check the oil for our older vehicles, so how about using Lent to check your spiritual pulse, to “check the oil” -- how is your connection with the Holy Spirit?
If you took your temperature spiritually -- how hot are you running spiritually? Spiritually we want to be hot not cold or lukewarm. So are you running hot spiritually? If not, why not? What steps in Lent might you take to raise your temperature?
Jesus makes some statements in Matthew 6, talking against the practices of the Pharisees telling the people to fast and pray and give but not like the Pharisees or like those who were pagan among them did. He uses interesting language in this section. He says, “When” not “If” you pray, give, fast. He is speaking from the assumption that they WILL fast and give and pray. He is telling them when they do this not to follow the example of their religious experts and leaders. Don’t fast, give and pray in order to be seen by people, in order to be applauded by people, in order to be rewarded by people. Instead, he invited them and invites US to be a people who give and pray and fast in order to serve and honor God.
This is not a statement that we ought not pray or fast or tell people what we give, in public. For example this is not a statement saying that when we are in a restaurant eating, that to pray there is somehow showing off-- nope. Jesus is speaking against the Pharisaical practice of prayer done LITERALLY on a street corner, loudly, demonstratively IN ORDER to be applauded by people. That’s a different world from praying for the waiter and the food at a restaurant, or praying for a friend who has told you of a need right there in the store. Jesus says, of those Pharisees, they will get rewarded by the observers. But then says, “But you, when you pray, pray in secret and the Father who sees in secret will reward you…” He invites his followers to pray to one who Knows them, to the “Father.” Pray not to some unknown, disconnected, unconcerned deity, but this intimately connected, loving, present, Abba Father, Papa God who sees, loves, knows and answers.
This Lent be taking that spiritual temperature and take some steps to raise it -- to pray, to fast from something that pulls your attention from God, to give extravagantly to meet some need. This Lent do something in secret to bring a positive blessing.