May God bless you all as we begin to enter the sacred season of Lent. Lent is a time for repentance and renewed belief in the good news of Jesus Christ. Lent begins tomorrow, Wednesday March 6th, Ash Wednesday and continues through Saturday April 20th. All together we are given 40 weekdays and six Sunday’s, including Easter Sunday on April 21st. This is a most sacred time that historically includes periods of fasting, silence, and setting apart time for solitude with God. The 40 days of Lent (from old English, “lencten”, meaning “spring season”). Whenever I consider this seasonal aspect, I think of the spiritual periods of the fall, followed by the death of winter, followed by the spring of new life and the summer of eternity. The 40 days of Lent represent the Lord Jesus Christ’s 40 days in the desert of temptation with Satan. It is the Lord’s conquest over the evil temptations of Satan that brings forth the fruit of our eternal summer. For it is by the Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world, that the fruit of the eternal summer comes forth from the spring of new life. The death of the desert winter is overcome by Jesus Christ the purifying life giver. This new life may be symbolized by three acts of that which bring forth restorational, (never retributive), justice; 1. Prayer, which is our lifeline of restoration toward and with God. 2. Fasting, which symbolizes purification and the restoration of self. 3. Giving of self and our resources to bring restorative justice to those in need. Lent is thus a liminal season of spring leading to summer that represents both the end of all that is related to death and the beginning of new, eternal life, in Christ Jesus, which we are too treasure and nurture. It is thus important to remember our temptations, which when succumbed to are the fall of death, and to turn our eyes upon Jesus Christ, God with us, who is the new life given to us. For in Christ we are empowered to overcome our temptations, that we may focus on and nurture our new life in Christ. Along the way we become more aware of our eternal union with God and our eternal life in Christ, where death is no more. As you can see, Lent is truly a time for repentance and (renewed) belief, for the kingdom of God is near (Mark 1:15).
As you may have noticed from our brief look at the meaning and practices of Lent, that Lent is a decidedly contemplative (with God) way of being, if we choose to treat it thus. Therefore, in the coming week’s within the pages of “Awakening” we will spend much time pondering both repentance and belief that we will better know God’s presence, the presence of Love, and God’s power for us to overcome sin, temptation, as we move toward a deeper awareness of eternal life, which came, and continues to come, through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. We will consider how this then led to the pouring out of Holy Spirit and will lead one day to the second coming of Jesus Christ. All this is the restorative justice that we experience and share at Lent, if we should choose.
Before we move forward, I would just like to say thank you to all who are joining us each morning and Wednesday evening on FaceBook Live. Those who have yet to join us please do so, www.facebook.com/pastor.gene.7. Also keep watch out for our upcoming YouTube series titled “An Introduction to Spiritual Direction.” Channel and times will be posted next week. Finally, please consider joining us on March 22nd for an experience titled “Hearing God: An Introduction to Holy Silence and Contemplative Listening.” This is tuition free event, as are all Awakening Institute experiences.
Now, let us center ourselves in Christ Jesus. Allow yourself to rest in the present moment to know God’s presence with you. It is good to be still as we pray for the Lord to speak to our hearts.
Now, our first “Awakening” of this year’s Lenten season, I would like to consider God’s grace filled movement…
From Dust to Eternity
then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, NRS Genesis 2:7a
All humanity was first formed from dust, the earth, the temporal. This state, if left on its own would be biologically alive, but with only an instinctual, animalistic, self-preservationist, self-referential, dog eat dog, existence. This is the dust that we remember when we receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday. But God had something much better in mind. Instead of a mere biological existence God gave us the breath of life.
“…and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” NRS Genesis 2:7b
Humanity became a truly and fully alive intuitive being, who could know God’s presence and God’s voice, and who had the ability to choose God’s love, or to choose against God’s love. In this respect the dust creature could not be held culpable for its actions, as they would be predicated on instinct, without the ability to choose or to reject Love.
The breath of God created within the human being an alive human spirit, through which the eternal soul could take up residence and move into the mind and body of the human being. This full alive human spirit, perfect eternal human soul, fully intuitive mind and imperishable body is the image of God. The fully effective, healthy, image of God is the fully effective image of Love that yearns to unite with God who is Love. The image always chooses Love.
Unfortunately, the image was obscured by sin and we chose to reject God. (See Genesis, Chapter 3). By this we were at risk of falling back into the realm of the dust human, but God, in a pure act of grace, cushioned our fall by leaving us with a vague sense of what had been lost and allowed the possibility for the recovery of the fully alive, God breathed, life. The damage was great however, as the human spirit/heart died, the soul became susceptible to damage, the mind became depraved and the body perishable. That is why Abraham could say…
Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. NRS Genesis 18:27
And the writer of Ecclesiastes could write…
All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. NRS Ecclesiastes 3:20
Sin, by God’s grace did not completely wipe out our ability to choose, but we were, and often still are, quite clueless in our discerning processes much of the time. Too often, sin is virtue and virtue sin in our upside-down world. Our decisions to choose love are usually based on love of self or love for our exclusive tribe. In this we are truly fallen and hopeless. However, God gave hope, by becoming incarnate in the Son, Jesus Christ. For God, by way of the purification of sin, in Christ Jesus, has lifted the blindness and given a new awareness, that we may truly choose for Love once again. The Holy Spirit brings new life to our dead human spirits, which in turn brings healing and expansion to our damaged souls, which in turn renews our minds and turns this perishing body into the seed of an imperishable body. We truly have gone from ashes to eternity in Christ Jesus, here and now. Now we must live into the fullness of this Reality. This is the way of Lent that we will explore over the coming weeks. Next week The Journey; awareness, purification, illumination, union and kenosis.
May God Bless You All, Gene Yotka
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