Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Giving Up for Lent

"Giving up for Lent."


I sometimes wonder at meanings we may give to words and phrases arranged and/or uttered in a particular way.


Take the sentence fragment quoted from the title above. Is it referring to what one may be giving up during the Lenten season? (I read a Facebook status recently that stated something like, "It seemed to work well for me last year, so this year I am again giving up fasting for Lent." :) Which leads me to wonder what anyone might indeed be "giving up for Lent." And not just giving up, but doing in place of. That is, instead of just refraining or abstaining from a particular item and/or activity, the person "giving up" something substitutes another thing or action in its place. For example, when fasting, the time one would have spent eating may instead be devoted to praying.


Another way one might interpret "Giving up for Lent" is to take it as a report of how contributions are currently coming in so far this spring. (In other words, one could understand it to mean that the giving of tithes and offerings is up higher for the forty days in the months of March and into April.) In this case, I would imagine that these words could be found especially encouraging as among some favorable signs of health and recovery for the leaders of a church congregation to consider with recent challenges in the world's economy.


In these lengthening days of Daylight Savings Time throughout the season of Lent, how will you be spending your time? What are you "giving up for Lent"?


During this season from Ash Wednesday leading up to Holy Week and Easter, I am "giving up for Lent." I am giving up to God the events of the last year or two in the life of my family and household of faith. I am increasingly continuing on in giving up any semblance of any effort on my part to try to make it through the rest of my life by myself on my own apart from dear friends and family in the Lord in our community. I, literally, give up! I am giving up, so that, to paraphrase the lyrics of a song by The Beatles, I may more than just "get by with a little help from my friends."


Friends, what is more, I am giving up everything I have experienced and may continue experiencing for, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians (3:8), "the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." As James (1:2) tells us, "Consider it all pure joy!" Give it up! Give it all up. Give it all over to Jesus. He can take it. He'll take what ever we may have to offer our Lord. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matthew 11:30) He'll carry us on through toward greater grace and heights for God's glory and our good. This Lent, let one and all giving up for Jesus be ever so


in His Peace,

Pastor Rex

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

on our understanding of God's election

According to Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, written by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Office of Theology and Worship, "No one is saved apart from God's redemption in Jesus Christ. Yet we do not presume to limit the sovereign freedom of God . . . Thus, we can neither restrict the grace of Jesus Christ to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that all people are saved regardless of faith.
Grace, love and communion belong to God, and are not ours to determine." W. A. Visser't Hooft wrote, "I don't know whether a Hindu is saved: I only know that salvation comes in Jesus Christ."


This may be unsatisfying for those who wish to leave no question unanswered. Hans K√ľng and other Catholic theologians have criticized it as being irresponsibly neutral. It is, however, in harmony with the attitude of humility that Jesus commanded in discussions about the reach of salvation. Repeatedly, he cautioned against judging, that is, thinking that we know God's judgments. Jesus' parables and other statements about the last day are full of surprises and reversals. "Reformed theology has always taught that salvation is ultimately in God's hands, beyond the pale of human understanding." According to John Calvin, "We must leave to God alone the knowledge of his church, whose foundation is his secret election."


The admission that we do not know the limits to God's wondrous grace does not lessen the joyous responsibility of Christians to share the good news of Christ with others. To be a Christian is to be claimed by Christ, to know that we are loved by God, and to be called by God to a life of purposeful service. To withhold this knowledge is to be indifferent to the needs of others. As Christians we are entrusted with the biblical story of God's way in the world, and especially with the good news of Jesus. We must tell that good news to others — not because we do not respect them, but because we love them. Many non-Christians may be better, godlier persons than we are; but we are the ones who have been called to share the story. We are to share it humbly, without coercion, trusting the Holy Spirit to use it to touch the hearts of those [with] whom we speak.


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