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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Ash Wednesday - 02/14/2018

This Lent I have suggested that we use a Lenten devotional called “40 Days Living the Jesus Creed.” It was written as a companion to a book called “The Jesus Creed,” which was published about 10 years ago.

As I wrote in the last edition of our newsletter, the idea of The Jesus Creed –  Jesus' command to love God with all our heart, soul and might, and to love neighbor as ourselves – intrigues me. I think it is because it is so counter-cultural, as much today as it was when Jesus first said it.

Loving God with every molecule of our bodies, our whole sense of self and every action we take conflicts with many other things in our lives that seem to demand the level of loyalty we commit to something like the Jesus Creed – our jobs, another human being, our busy secular schedules, our desires for wealth and status in our communities, our wishes to keep things just as they are, our desires to be seen and heard.

And loving neighbor as we love ourselves has two edges (at least) of which I think we must stay mindful. Do we love every neighbor as we do ourselves, our own families and others who are familiar to us? And do we love ourselves as we do neighbor – or would we be mortified to treat others as we treat ourselves?

So, like in my newsletter column and again tonight and in the days ahead, I will continue to invite you to join in this study. It's never too late to join in, so please don't worry about that. I have a few copies of the book available to borrow or purchase. You can also get it as an e-book.

We will also be using this book in our Lenten Soup and Service times together with our ecumenical partners during Wednesdays of Lent. These evening services will be meaningful to anyone who comes, regardless of whether they are using the book. For those who do the devotions, the services should serve as a deeper dive into the Jesus Creed each week.

As a way of hopefully whetting your appetite, I'd like to read today's reflection. (Scott McKnight, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, 2008, Paraclete Press, 3ff)

So today, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of this Lenten Season of reflection and growth as people of God and followers of Jesus, I believe our readings set us up perfectly to begin a Lenten devotion such as this or to prepare you for any other Lenten practices we are contemplating this year.

Perhaps you're feeling strongly about giving up something that is harming you or others, or holding you back in some way. Maybe like me, you are looking to add more consistent prayer time to your daily life. Sometimes Lent can help us reshape or reset our attitude toward something in life that is challenging us or is downright knocking the wind out of us emotionally, mentally and physically.

Our readings,remind us that  we start all of this with a spirit of penitence, just as King David did in Psalm 51.

You may remember what led King David to use this psalm, or perhaps even write it himself – it was the Bathsheba/Uriah incident. As the story goes in 2 Samuel, King David's human heart and desire for Bathsheba led him to put quite a bit of distance between himself and God.

His pursuit of Bathsheba was the sin of abuse of power. What was she supposed to do? Her choices were to submit or disobey the King, an impossible situation for her.  And then in an effort to cover that sin, King David caused Uriah, Bathsheba's husband and one of his loyal military leaders, to be killed by enemy troops. In the process, others he had sent off to battle in his name were also killed in this attempt to cover sin.

Then into the picture came his trusted advisor Nathan.

“The Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’

“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! … (and) David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.'” (2 Sam 12:1-7, 13)

It was only then, with his heart shattered and  changed, that King David was able to experience God's forgiveness as deeply as God desires … it was only then God was able to re-purpose King David's changed heart from adultery and murder and deceit to sing out the redemption of this Psalm: “Save me, bring back my joy, support me, strengthen my will. Then I will teach your way and sinners will turn to you. Help me, stop my tears, and I will sing your goodness. Lord, give me words and I will shout your praise.” (Ps 51)

Nathan held a mirror up to King David in a similar way Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent holds a mirror up to us, so we too can catch an honest reflection of our sinful natures, so we too can move beyond that brokenness; so that we may make our way through this season with our own hearts shattered and changed to the ways of the world, and fully open to experience what it means to love God with all our heart, soul and might and to love our neighbor more deeply and richly then we have ever experienced before.


Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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