“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in the truth.” John 17:16-18
As we leave the month of January and enter the month of February, we leave behind the holiday seasons. Christmas and New Year celebrations are over. The election of and Inauguration of a new President is over. Now we long to get back into the routines, which are still being interrupted by the Pandemic. Some students are in school in person. Some are on-line. Some have a combination of the two. Checking the calendar to see who is to be where and when is part of a new routine. I know parents and grandparents long to watch their student athlete compete when the games or matches are allowed.
Our restaurants are open, but at lower capacity or takeout, which is better than not all. Many are afraid to even go out. Some still have doctor appointments, which can be in person or virtual or postponed. Many are trying to get the vaccine. Work still demands our attention and energy. Families still have crazy schedules trying to get students to study, practices and other extra-curricular activities. We are either “Zooming” on the computer or just zooming around in person. We are on the go.
In the middle of February, Wednesday the 17th, to be exact is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten Journey. Lent originally was used as a time to teach new converts about Jesus, Jesus’ teaching, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Lord’s Supper, baptism and how to live out your life as a follower of Jesus. After the forty days of instruction, the new convert was baptized on Easter morning. Then they received a white gown and could participate in the Lord’s Supper for the first time.
As years went by and the Church became a legal religion and the official religion of the Roman Empire, the liturgical year was developed. Lent is a time of discipline, a time set aside for prayer, worship and fasting. The discipline helps us to focus on Jesus’ suffering, his death and preparation for the celebration of Easter, Jesus’ victory over the power of sin and death. Lent is a good time to remember Jesus’ words in his prayer for us, his followers. Jesus is lifting up his disciples and us, those who would come to believe because of their witness, asking the Father to watch over us. Jesus says we are not of the world, just as he is not of the world. At the same time, Jesus says we are sent into the world, just as he was sent into the world.
With the help or the burden of modern technology our lives are lived at a very fast pace. We don’t have lots of time in between our activities today. We finish one activity and begin another, with our phones, we are probably working on something while we are traveling or transitioning from one major task to the other. Go, go, go. Living life at such a fast pace, adding societal pressures, like the pandemic, racism and political divisiveness to our lives just keeps us on the constant move. When so many things in the world demand our time and our attention, it is difficult to remember and to live as though we are in the world, but not of the world.
Lent gives us an opportunity to step off the fast-paced merry-go-round for a while. The discipline of Lent, calling us to worship and prayer reminds us that we are in the world, but not of the world. Lenten themes usually change our focus from the world to Jesus’ Passion, his suffering of broken relationships of friends abandoning him, suffering mockery and rejections, suffering beatings, the whip and crucifixion, and suffering death itself.
As we change our focus from the world to our Lord’s suffering, we are shifting our focus from how the world defines us and how God defines who we are. The world defines us according to what status or prestige assigned to our vocation, our bank accounts, and some moving definition of physical attractiveness. As we focus upon the cross and the suffering of our Lord, we begin to glimpse how God defines and perceives us.
The cross and the suffering of our Lord reveals the depth of God’s love for you and me. Jesus defines our worth, as his suffering and death and resurrection. Jesus and the Father define you as a beloved child of God, an inheritor of the very Kingdom of God. Jesus defines you as citizen of the Kingdom of heaven, not belonging to the world, but belonging to God’s reign of love. This is what is at the heart of Jesus’ prayer for you, “sanctify them in the truth.” Jesus wants you to know your true value, your identity as a child of God. The word sanctify means how you live out your life. Jesus is asking the Father that you would know the truth of God’s love for you, so you can live in the joy and peace of the truth of God’s love. Earlier in his conversation with his disciples Jesus said, “I give you my peace, not the peace of the world, but my peace.”
Lent is a time to hear the truth of God’s word, to focus upon our relationship as a Child of God and as brothers and sisters in Christ, so we do not get so caught up in the world, that we forget who we really are. So, take some time this Lent to get off the merry-go-round, catch your breath, and focus on God’s love for you. Spring is around the corner, trust God and His love for you. Have a blessed Lenten season.