Fifth Sunday of Lent

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A year or so ago I attended a weeklong leadership training retreat. Somewhere around the third day, after we had gotten to know each other a bit, the instructor/facilitator mentioned that I focus on “Titanic stories” instead of “Mayflower stories.”  The point was, this person thought I had a tendency to highlight and think about failures instead of successes. I fired back, “the arrival of the Mayflower wasn’t a celebration for everyone!” The instructor wasn’t amused.

One of the reasons I love the Lenten season is that it forces us to take inventory. Spiritual disciplines help us to look back to where we’ve come from, as well as forward to where we’d like to go. They help me to ask questions about where I am today and how I’ve arrived here. In Isaiah 43 we read that we shouldn’t dwell on the past. But the truth is, both as a church and as individuals, none of us would be where we are today if it weren’t for our histories.

We usually think of the narrative of Jesus’ resurrection as one sweeping historical event. And it is true — Jesus’ sentencing, execution and conquering of the grave is a defining moment. We should point back to it and say, “that changed everything.” But we shouldn’t be stuck there. The resurrection continues to change everything.

The key word in Isaiah 43:18-19a is dwell. If we dwell on our past, we stay stuck in it. We blame past events or continually define ourselves by pointing to something we did twenty years ago. By doing so, we ignore the present and don’t allow new things to come. We rob ourselves of having “resurrection moments” every day — those times where we can see God redeeming our past and giving new life. As we head toward Easter and look forward to the new life that comes with Spring, I hope we can be a community that both looks backwards with grateful hearts while looking forward for opportunities of resurrection in the present. May the image of the empty tomb that once held Jesus’ lifeless body guide us to new life in him.

– Pastor Dave

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