Summary: Loosely based on Roger Sonnenberg's lent series of the same title, this series looks at damaged relationships using the passion of Christ. Not only advice on how to prevent damage, there is a major focus on the hope we have, that results in all relations

Concordia Lutheran Church

Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2010



May the grace, mercy and truth of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and through you, impacting every relationship you are part of!

Some are simple, nothing more than a smile now and then, and a “hello” or “God Bless!” Others dominate our time, and as complex as the human body, as we interact with family and friends, and co-workers.

Either way, relationships are what define us. Our vocations, we are employees, or bosses, we are parents or children or grandparents. We are husbands and wives. We are…followers of Jesus and children of God.

As we enter lent, as we consider our sins, those sins are sins because they wreck the relationships we have, including our relationship with Jesus. Indeed, any relationship we damage, is indicative of our struggles with following Jesus, for John wrote in his first epistle,

19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 20 If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? 21 The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both. 1 John 4:19-21 (MSG)

In this series of Lenten devotionals, we are going to look at things that get in the way of loving our neighbor. Things demonstrated in Jesus road, from the garden to the cross. We are going to look at how He loved, that we can realize how He loves us, and thereby be enabled to love as well. But we will also see how His grace heals us when we fail, and enables the relationships we wound… to be healed as well.

Tonnight, we look at something the first thing that wounds relationships. Sociologists call it,”Escalation”. This is how the author of the series we are adapting, described it.

Escalation occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante so that conditions get worse and worse. Negative comments often spiral into increasing anger and frustration. As each antes up their argumentation with attacks toward the other, anger quickly becomes contempt. It may include everything from name-calling to bringing up past hurts.

Today, we call this “trash talking”, and to be good at it is a sign of… hmmm… Well people really respect those who are good at… Hmmm, ok I am not sure why it is popular, but it is!

Most of us have engaged in this from time to time. Sometimes it starts playful but escalates. As Jesus goes from the garden to the cross, his enemies continually escalate things, even to the extent of making things up.

In verse 61, they misquote him and accuse him of sinning against the temple.

In 63 they demand that he play their game, and answer their question. When he answers it truthfully, they raise the stakes again and accuse Him of blaspheming and deserves to die! In 66 it goes from just words to physical, uncontrolled attacks.

There was no listening, there was no thought, just more and more intense reaction – each reaction raising the level, until there was no more control, and their own rules of court where tossed aside in a fit of rage.

There is no calm nature, there is no justice, there is only escalating tension. And it ended in Christ’s death.

Can it be changed?

In our relationships, escalation is often seen on both sides of the fight. And it does cause what might seem to be irreparable damage. Yet, even as Jesus walks to the cross, He shows us the keys to de-escalate.

The first is humility. Despite knowing He could bring 12 legions of angels to fight the fight before him, he realized the relationships were more important. Paul described this in our Phillipians reading, even as he urged us to have the same mindset.

5 Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus "every knee shall bow", whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, "every tongue shall confess" that Jesus Christ" is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5 (Phillips NT)

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