Please enjoy these Reflections for Lent this weekend!
Friday in the First Week of Lent
Matthew 5:20-26?English Standard Version (ESV)
20?For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.?21??You have heard that it was said to those of old, ?You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.? 22?But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[a] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[b] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ?You fool!? will be liable to the hell[c] of fire.23?So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,24?leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25?Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26?Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[d]
Righteousness is one of the main reasons Jesus came. The goal was to?pervade His righteousness through every last fiber of our being. Think of the holiest, most righteous person you know or have ever heard about from history. I think Jesus?is saying our righteousness must exceed even that. Our righteousness must extend all the way to even our intentions. This isn't just a moralizing, "don't kill anyone" lesson here; this is a now-you've-gone-from-teaching-to-meddling lesson.
Jesus takes righteousness beyond where we want to go. We want righteousness to be about not taking action against someone in anger, but where we still get to hang on to our angry thoughts. Jesus says, "I want the angry thoughts, too."
But if we think this passage is only about teaching us that righteousness includes intent, and not just our actions, if we aren't careful, we'll miss the main, even earth-shattering point: Jesus is saying righteousness also includes?relationship.
Jesus isn't just saying, "Look, if you are mad at someone, stop being mad at them" and that'll do it. No, he tells us to stop being mad at someone is good, but it's not enough; we must also restore the relationship.
Jesus knows what we really want is to deceive ourselves into goodness. We want to choose not to hurt someone (that really deserves it) so we can call ourselves good.
So Jesus looks at us and points squarely to our heart and says, "But in here, where I am, you still desire to hurt them." So, we tell Jesus that we've even let go of our desires?in our heart to harm them, and that we've even forgiven them, and then we hear, "That's great, now go and be restored relationally with them!"
Jesus just keeps upping the die-to-self ante until we find union with Him and unity with others.
This teaching from Jesus was going along fine for me this morning as I read it prayerfully. I imagined Jesus and I traveling along in a car and Him teaching me these principles personally. And then Jesus slams on the brakes and pulls to the side of the road and brings this passage to a dramatic and screeching halt and dramatically tells me, "If want to have anything to do with me, bring restored relationships to me along with your offerings because just not being mad at someone ain't the point!"
Ok, so that's my translation, I admit...but wouldn't it be cool if Jesus said "ain't"?
Restored relationships are a fragrant offering to Jesus.
I think Jesus knows our capacity to fool ourselves into thinking our hearts are pure and so He keeps pressing us to die to self by placing unity and relationship at the heart of righteousness.
On Fridays during Lent, our thoughts instinctively turn to the cross where Jesus restored our relationship to Him. What relationships do you need to restore as a fragrant offering to Jesus?
Not all relationships can, or should, be restored to daily contact-or any contact at all. But, through forgiveness and prayer, we can spiritually restore these painful places before God. Are there relationships in your life where you can offer forgiveness to another today, even if only through prayer?
Saturday in the First Week of Lent
Matthew 5:43-48?English Standard Version (ESV)
Love Your Enemies
43??You have heard that it was said, ?You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.? 44?But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45?so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46?For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47?And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48?You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Saturdays during Lent have a grateful and a spiritually elevating tone to them.
Today we are reminded that God's new covenant is extended to us without any strings attached. God is for us even if we aren't for Him, even if we don't acknowledge Him. God loves each of us, even the evil and cruel, even the good and kind. The mean farmer finds his fields watered the same as the kind farmer.
It's almost as if God can't contain the rain, can't hold back His love, even if he wanted to.
It's bursting at the seams and overflowing to all of His creation.
In view of this all-saturating love, God calls us to love those even who do not love us.
Ask God to help you turn toward Him. Acknowledge you sometimes want to turn everywhere but Him. Allow your mind to soak in the truth that, no matter where you turn, you find God's love raining down and praise Him with gratefulness this Saturday. Ask Him to help you love like He loves.
Second Sunday in Lent
Matthew 17:1-9?English Standard Version (ESV)
17?And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2?And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3?And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4?And Peter said to Jesus, ?Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.? 5?He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ?This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.? 6?When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7?But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ?Rise, and have no fear.? 8?And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9?And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ?Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.?
We find here the new Kingdom already breaking in. Jesus was transformed right before their very eyes, his face shining like the sun, his garments becoming like the brightest light ever to glint off the purest white snow.
Notice this new Kingdom is immediately relational as, all of a sudden, Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. The first instinct of the three of them, still operating under the viewpoint of the world's kingdom, was to build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But their plans were immediately interrupted by the still-echoing voice from what God said through Moses during His final sermon on the mountainside, a voice heard now again during Jesus baptism, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him."
This new Kingdom doesn't need tents. This new Kingdom doesn't need people who seek fame, comfort or riches. This new Kingdom operates off of servant-minded sacrifice of one's very life.
As we enter into this second week of Lent, it is good and proper for us to enter seeking God's forever reverberating voice. We enter the week, like Peter, James and John, interrupted from our tent-making efforts to hear the voice of the Lord. What is God saying to you this week as you pause for a moment to listen?
When you hear this voice, what fears cause you to fall to the ground?
Imagine Jesus coming alongside of you and touching you in your fear. What does He say to you?