We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:8-20 “Hey Mom – I had an Epiphany!” These are the words heard in a phone call from my son during his first year away at college. I don’t quite remember the exact event, but I do remember thinking how proud I was that he had come to some realization concerning school. We worked really hard at getting him to understand the importance of his education. He had taken so much for granted, not completely because he never wanted for anything but also out of immaturity. Out on his own, as I heard his excitement about a decision surrounding school indicated real growth on his part as our love, work and sacrifice begins to bear fruit. The Corinthians had it all including the love of God but in their spiritual immaturity, they behaved badly, taking advantage of God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy. So Paul writes to admonish and plead for their maturity in Christ. Having experienced the season of Epiphany, as children of God, Lent now calls us in to that same growth and maturity in Christ who sacrificed for us.
…but remember me when it is well with you… Genesis 40:1-23 It would be another two years before Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph. I am reminded of the movie 12 Years A Slave, when Solomon Northup, abducted from his home in Upstate New York and enslaved on a plantation in New Orleans, once again places his hope in the kind and yet dangerous hand of another man. Solomon had been betrayed before but it didn’t keep him from holding to the hope of regaining his freedom. So when the first sign of the next possibility arose, he tried again. Although he could not have known to whom he could trust his story, he did know that he could trust in his hope.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid… 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15 The bitter winter has everyone wondering when spring will arrive. Just the other day I saw evidence that in fact it’s waiting its proper time as it always does. Buds peeping out from the garden and bluebirds fluttering their wings as they forage for insects assures us that spring is on it’s way. Although the actual date of it’s arrival is March 20th we know that “winter like” conditions have a way of sneaking in. Much the same way our foundation in Christ is set. It can’t be moved. Sure we have those “winter-like” days but in due time, parallel to the green buds and the bluebirds, the seeds planted in the foundation that is Christ always springs forth.
Without thinking about it you reach for the jar of chunky bars, carefully unwrap the foil and take a bite. About half way through, you remember you’ve given up chocolate for the season of Lent. It was a way of pacifying your anxious moments. Years ago it served as a mere break. In fact you never even finished the entire bar. These days it has become a crutch for every moment you wish would simply go away but never seems to dissipate. Particularly on bad days, chunky bars don’t stand a chance.
The first time we seriously engage in a Lent, we don’t know if we are going to make it. We recognize that whatever it is that we have decided to sacrifice is something that has the potential to be abused by us. We not only want to let go of the cycle; we need to let go of the cycle. It’s so easy in life to hold on to some things far too tightly and convince our selves that they are necessary to survive. Yet, for fear of “missing out,” we forget that we can always walk away from the jar full of chunky bars, the fantastic shoe sale, or the ever popular collectible item that calls our name. The desire to let go indicates that something else is calling our name. A first sign of God’s grace is when we begin to replace the thought of “missing out”, with praise and thanksgiving for God’s strength to resist the temptation. The more time we give to praise, leaves less room for regret of missing out, as we build up the strength to let go of the things we don’t need.
So too in our spiritual journey, the tighter we hold on to feelings of regret, guilt and trespass; the harder it is to let go. Let us remind ourselves to let go of those past frustrations in the same way we let go of that chunky bar. Perhaps at first we won’t be successful but as we learn to hold to those things less tightly, we can take courage and realize that in spite of the setbacks, we survived! Give praise and thanksgiving and know that God has already forgiven us. As we grow, no longer will we desire or need to listen to the “chunky bars” in life, because we are listening for the higher calling and we are free to continue to live into his eternal grace.