“[Jesus answered] ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
Jesus warns, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy.” But then He continues, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) As we’ve been going through our sermon series – American Idols: Reclaiming Our Intimacy with God – we’ve discussed various forms of idolatry in our lives. Some are obvious, others are more subtle. At the core, idols are counterfeit gods that take us away us from the one, true God, distract us from authentic worship, and rob us of the life Jesus provides for us.
I’ve enjoyed this series a great deal. And now, as we approach Holy Week, we’ll take a kind of Sabbath from this series to focus on the Passion of our LORD. In the Pastor’s Bible Study, we’ve been keying off the PCUSA Lenten Series: Full to the Brim. Several other congregations in our presbytery are following this series, as well. And so, I thought it would be good to switch gears during Holy week to make use of this series on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter Sunday.
Lent is often a time for restraint, confession, piety, and generosity. Traditionally, the goal of Lent is to step away from the grind of the daily rat race and the fear of scarcity, in order to focus on the more expansive life offered by faith in Jesus Christ. Dr. Mark Douglas is Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. In an article in Journal for Preachers, Douglas writes:
Still other reasons for Lent are more troubling to my Reformed mind. Believing that grace is always a surprise, that apart from God’s grace we can do nothing, and that resurrection is the deepest, most mysterious expression of God’s grace, I simply can’t make theological sense of the claim that any of us can do anything to prepare ourselves for the arrival of such grace on Easter Sunday… Easter is a shock of divine goodness that reveals not the evidence of our worth or the magnitude of our efforts, but God’s astounding power, to which we can but whisper, “Thank you,” not “Okay: now I’m ready.” Whatever work we do at learning to discipline our bodies and our lives, we do in response to God’s grace, not in preparation for it. But there again, this response – this disciplining – isn’t a seasonal exercise; it’s a lifelong one.
These sentiments are not new. We often say, we should not only celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas; we should celebrate Jesus being born into our lives every day of the year. We should not only offer thanks at Thanksgiving; we should be thankful to God every day of our lives. We should not only celebrate resurrection life on Easter Sunday; we should celebrate it all year long. But these festivals help us focus on these particular graces from God and encourage us to incorporate them into our lives on a daily basis.
The Full to the Brim series fits very well into the sermon series on American Idols. And so it follows that this break for Holy Week will actually enhance our understanding of finding life in Jesus Christ. As we have done in the past, we’ll develop a special, interactive service for Maundy Thursday, April 14th. Part of that time will be devoted to prayer for peace in the world. Participants will have an opportunity to pray out loud or in silence during the service.
And, of course, Easter Sunday will be a day of celebration, praise, and worship. Following the service, we’ll have our annual Easter Egg Hunt on the Old OC Courthouse lawn. We encourage our church family to invite friends and neighbors to join us!
Looking forward to a meaningful and memorable Easter time.
I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,