The Love with God Meter
First Sunday in Lent, Matthew 4:1-11
This week we move into a new season of the church. Lent has long been viewed as a season of penitence and fasting in preparation of the Paschal feast. This preparation continues in this day. For some, this preparation includes a time to study, reflect, and anticipate their upcoming baptism and entry into the faith. For all of us, Lent is a time for self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word. There is no one way to live this out, not one single path. I challenge you to take some time in reflection on what this season means to you. Take the time to examine your life. How am I living my life? Am I honoring God in the life that I live? In the days ahead, we will move closer and closer to Holy Week and Easter. Where will we be when Jesus is captured, beaten, and hung on a cross to die? Where will we be when Jesus reappears after his resurrection? Now is the time for us to prepare ourselves for the events to come. Easter is not the time when I want to be distant from God. I want to be right there in the crowd, right beside him on the narrow streets of Jerusalem, right there at the foot of the cross, and right there with the resurrected Jesus. What can I do now to prepare myself for this journey, my own journey with Jesus. Won’t there be times ahead when I’ll be lost in the crowds, beaten up emotionally, if not physically? May there be a time when we can let go of the distractions in our lives, a letting go of the pride we carry around our neck, a letting go of the burdens we carry on our back? Maybe then, we too can live a resurrected life, free from the things that separate us from the love of God. Let’s start now. Let’s prepare ourselves now for the road ahead.
I had something happen to me this week that I didn’t expect. A friend of mine back in TN reached out to me about being a deacon and that they were feeling the pull toward that ministry. She said, “I’m just in love with God and I don’t know what to do with it.” I almost started crying when I read those words because that’s exactly the way I felt at the beginning of my journey. All I could think about was God. I took every opportunity to walk in the woods, read a book, offer up my prayers…in a sometimes difficult and challenging word, God was good, God was with me, and God made me feel loved. Her words of I’m just in love with God took me right back to that place in my life. I confessed to her that sometimes now I feel lost in the busyness of life and my mind is not always focused on God. That is something for me to reflect on during this season. God, of course, is still with me, but now there is so much busyness in my life that I know I put God on cruise control and move on to other things, knowing God is safely running in the background like an app on my phone. Is that what God is to me now? I want to just be in love with God again. My friend’s words hit me and reminded me that God is not just a part of my life…God is everything, in everything. Buy maybe you’re thinking, “How do you know?” I guess the answer is somewhere between I believe it and I’ve experienced it. Let’s take this time during Lent to remove the stuff in our lives that distract us. How can we let go and then pull closer the presence of God?
There will be distractions and temptations. Like Jesus in our Gospel lesson this morning, there will be times when it feels as if the devil is working against us to draw closer to God. There were times during my journey when I had conversation with myself saying that I couldn’t do this. I’m not smart enough, not outgoing enough, not able to stand up here and say anything worth saying. Maybe it’s important that we have those temptations. Maybe we need to examine those questions before moving deeper into the journey. For me the answer came pretty quickly. “Away with you, Satan!” I may not be at the top of my class, I may be an introvert, and I may be terrified to be up here speaking, but I’m going to do it anyway…with God’s help. I’m going to sit down to write a sermon and go from page one to three just like that because….I don’t know. God is with me. What is your distraction? What takes you off course from your journey with God. What might I add to my life to bring me closer? Maybe a new prayer practice or a new volunteer activity. Maybe it’s calling on a friend to check-up on them and make sure they are ok. Maybe it’s just the acceptance that the road ahead is going to have challenges, but that we’ll all be ok. God is with us. We are loved. We are in this together. Where am I on the I’m in love with God meter? I’m here to tell you, it’s pretty fantastic to be at 10. You might even want to put it up to 11, for all you Spinal Tap movie fans out there.
I’d like to close with a Lenten poem I found online by Marjorie Hurder, at the time a student at Candler School of Theology, at Emory University in Atlanta.
Sometimes I can glimpse through To what the kingdom of God Might look like
These glimpses Show singing And preparing the feast For all
I can glimpse sometimes In the ways we Laugh together Cry together Hug together
We are gathered into one Whole Body To celebrate
And this I can see Sometimes If I pay attention