The Secret Season

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The Secret Season

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 6:1–6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Lent is a season of secrets. I invite you to think of all the times Jesus told people not to talk about Him. From one of the very first miracles, turning water into wine at a wedding party, to the healing of blind men and lepers… there were certain occasions where Jesus told people not to share about His work in their lives. Why did Jesus tell people not to mention Him? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that He wanted to stay out of trouble long enough to do all the teaching and healing He was able to do before going to the cross. Some will argue “That was then, but now we should always share about Jesus.” I almost completely agree with that. However, Jesus did command His followers to be careful just how we share Him because if we share Him looking for a reward, we will be disappointed in the result.

In fact, any kind of spirituality we practice on earth for a worldly, immediate reward will ultimately be disappointing. Jesus tells us that our heavenly reward comes in secret. Now, I know Lent has probably waned in popularity over the years and most people do not advertise whatever kind of fasting they are doing, but our world has gotten louder in its boasting about good deeds.

Giving, praying, and fasting are all very popular ways to express a certain pedigree of spirituality. They are also great ways to grow in your relationship with God. Those are not necessarily the same thing. Growing closer to God is like growing closer in a romantic relationship. There are some things that are very appropriate to share. There are other things that need to stay between you and the one you love. Lent is our time of growing closer to Jesus in ways that may be too personal to be shared with everyone else… and there is nothing wrong with that.

“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 6:16–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I pray God blesses you this season as He draws us all closer to Him, closer to the cross, and closer to the new life found on the other side.

Dust

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“Then Job answered the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you declare to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.”” Job 42.1-6 (NRSV)

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Ash Wednesday Blessing

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

God outdoes us at every turn. He humbles me in the power and care of His creation. The freedom He allows us while providing for our every need is a paradox that I cannot fathom. He redefines the word ‘god’ every day, expanding it into new territories.

Compared to this, who am I? Who are we? Just flickering motes of dust, tossed about to and fro by every little gust of wind. Some of our greatest adversaries: Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hunger, and poverty… these might be barely noticeable blips on the radar screen of the one who created the entire universe, who determines the deaths of stars, let alone the health and comforts of humanity. I cannot relate.

Then God does one more incredible thing. He becomes dust Himself. Eternity fits itself into a box of 33 years. The God of the universe, who could have been born as a blazing star that consumed everyone in Bethlehem with His glory and holiness, was instead born as a tiny helpless baby. How can this be? Even I, a man of dust cannot humble myself to the level of an infant!

But that is exactly what God asks of each of us. Following His lead, we are called to be “born again”. To rid ourselves of our fanciful notions of greatness and stoop to a terrifying level of helplessness – trusting God to hold us, as He trusted Mary to hold Him.

Can you remember you are dust today… dust that only enjoys this life by the grace of God? Can you return to the humility of that dust as we wait expectantly for our God to return, to lift us up, and to lead us home?

  • What brings joy to your life today?
  • What reminds you of your humble place in life?
  • How can you follow God’s example and humble yourself in order to trust in God’s grace more this week?

Who are we…

That you would be mindful of us?

What do you see…

That’s worth looking our way?

Wednesday December 21, 2016