Summary: We have as much of the Spirit of God within us as we clear out room of ourselves.
Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit
Lent #1, March 13, 2011 Matt. 5:3
Welcome to the first Sunday in Lent, the season of preparation for Easter.
While many of us like the idea of spontaneity, with its surprise and playfulness, we also recognize that the things in life that really are significant usually require careful preparation. Like a career choice, a marriage, retirement, a holiday, even a special meal – these things require fore-thought, planning, and an intentional decision to get ready and then follow-through to make it happen.
The season of Lent is about that kind of preparation. Lent is the 40 days (excepting Sundays) leading up to Easter, and in the Christian calendar it has long been a time set aside for deeper spiritual engagement. It is normally patterned after the rhythms of confession and repentance, with strong elements of sacrifice, as a way of walking with Jesus through the cross and then to the empty tomb.
I’ve mapped out a journey through Lent and would like to invite you to come along. It is a deliberate contrast between the way of life described by Jesus in the Beatitudes, and seven sins that Christian history has identified as particularly sinister to our souls (and which are largely now celebrated in our broader culture). It is well described in one of the resources we’ll be using:
“The Beatitudes are eight snapshots of eight different lives that Jesus said experience God’s favor. The Beatitudes introduced all that Jesus wanted to say about a new kind of life. Through them Jesus sought to pull at his audience’s heartstrings. He wanted to draw them in and show them that the life God offers is precisely what they desired. The Beatitudes were, above all else, Jesus’ invitation to see the world as God does – and to love it. As a whole, the Beatitudes are a picture of the voids created by sin being filled in with the life of heaven. They are eight pictures of resurrection.” (from the introduction, emphasis original: Jeff Cook, Seven: The Deadly Sins And The Beatitudes. ePub Format. © 2008. Zondervan.)
Each Sunday we are going to look at one of the Beatitudes, and see how it fills in the void left by one of the sins identified by some of the ancient Christians as particularly hazardous to our souls. We will continue the discussion in Adult Ed time, and I will prepare some questions for you to work through prayerfully during the week and to discuss with a friend or a spouse. My prayer is that as we walk through this season, we’ll “put to death” the sins and experience the Holy Spirit breathing new life, resurrecting us as we take this season to pay closer attention to our spiritual walk as we draw near to the high point of the Christian year, our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. I invite you, here at the beginning, to choose to fully engage this journey, and I’m confident that the Holy Spirit will work in us.
Lately in my spirit I’ve been feeling that God wants to stir up a new thing among us, awaken us in a deeper way to His Kingdom life, connect us again to His power to bring real change in our lives and our world. And I must say, that excites me, and I pray we will see it come to reality among us. I’ve been a pastor and a student of history long enough to know that there are times where God moves more visibly, where He comes afresh, where our plodding obedience begins to break down the substantial walls that exist between God’s Kingdom and our lives in the middle of the Kingdom of this world. Maybe that feeling is that God wants to do that in me, and I welcome it, but I think it is for the rest of us as well, and I pray this Lenten Journey is a part of that work of God.
So to begin, I wonder if you might be willing to pray a prayer with me. I’m going to put it on the screen, and I want you to look at it before praying it so that you can choose whether to make this your prayer or not. I’ll invite you to pray it out loud with me in a moment, but only if you will own it as well. It is simple:
Holy Spirit, come.
I open my life to You, completely.
I invite You to open the eyes of my heart to the life of God.
I surrender everything to You,
asking You to remove everything that gets in the way of me living life “to the full”,
asking You to create within me a hatred for sin, and how it destroys life in me,