Today’s scriptures tell the story of what it means to be a Christian. They speak of faith, community, repentance, forgiveness, witnessing and the power of the name of Jesus. In Acts, Peter and John heal a crippled man and proclaim that the man has been healed by his faith in the name of Jesus. Peter addresses the crowd as his brothers and sisters and calls on them to “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” The psalmist asks the Lord, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, and then proclaims that the Lord has made man little less than the angels.” In the story from Luke, the risen Christ appears to the disciples and they fear they are seeing a ghost. Jesus assures them that He is real and tells them they are to be his witnesses.
Well, the Lenten season is done and the Octave of Easter is almost over. How was your Lent? And now what? I had a rough start to Lent this year, but it turned out great. Per usual, I gave up chocolate and beer and, in addition, I had a book to read and pledged to spend more time with God. Well, just a few days after Ash Wednesday, HyVee had a beer tasting event, Godiva chocolate had a pre-Valentine’s day sale at the mall, I was behind in my reading and two kids got sick and took the time I was going to give to God. I was so angry and disgusted with myself. I felt foolish, worthless and weak. Oh, well, so much for this Lent. Maybe 2009? I was ready to quit. The perfect example of what NOT to do for Lent. I was focused on my failure. I was not even thinking about preparing my heart for Easter. Our tendency is to beat ourselves up and not forgive ourselves, let alone accept forgiveness from God. Then I went to a gathering here at Creighton and a woman, who had a similar experience to mine said, every day can be Ash Wednesday. Meaning, God gives us infinite opportunities to repent, be forgiven and try again. I’m sure this woman has no idea how much her simple statement meant to me. It emphasized to me the importance of relationship, the importance of community. It sounds strange, but in order for someone to love God, sometimes that person has to have the support of other believers.
Peter is a great example. Peter denied Christ three times. I cannot imagine how Peter must have felt. Peter had to make a choice. He could follow the example of Judas and end the pain and despair of failing Christ by taking his own life. Or he could repent and have his sins wiped away. Peter chose the latter and became the leader of the church.
My family enjoys hiking. In the event that someone gets off the path or lost, we always emphasize ways to find direction. A compass always points north and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. On a recent trip, my youngest son started to cry and shout at his brothers from the back of the van. Even older brothers, who usually take great glee in tormenting their younger brother, realized the seriousness of the moment and became quiet. When I asked what was wrong, Seth said he remembered the time he had gotten separated from us at a state park a few years ago. He obviously felt that he was lost and it was his fault. I did not remember it as a big deal and had almost forgotten about it. Seth obviously had not.
As Christians we want to please God and follow Christ. No matter how strong that desire is, we will stray from the path and we may get lost. We will fail and beat ourselves up over it. That said, we are so blessed to have a loving and forgiving God. No matter how big our screw up, no matter how far we have strayed in life, we can always return to the cross. The ultimate direction finder is Christ.
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