Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday : Repent And Believe

So Lent begins.

Listen!  Can you hear the whisper?  The whisper inviting you to lose yourself in order to find yourself; to die to false self in order to rise to true self; to be transformed.

To be found in Christ; filled with the Holy Spirit; fathered by God.

This is what you were made for.  And yet it requires a turning away from all other grounds for identity.  Away from self-sufficiency (i.e. I can meet my needs).  Away from ‘celebrity’ status (i.e. you can meet my needs).  Away from ‘political’ power (i.e. I can meet your needs).  To God, your father, who loves you and is pleased with you.

How do we do that?  First, we allow God to reveal to us where our identity is really grounded.  For example, in ‘celebrity’ status.  I don’t mean celebrity like you see in the media; I mean, that thing for which you are known, that thing you do that causes people to praise you.  The person who is known for their delicious cakes; or their successful dinner parties; or their musical talents; or their confidence in public speaking.  There is nothing wrong with doing something well, something well that others respond to with praise.  But something subtle can happen over time: we find ourselves doing this thing because we will be praised, in order to trigger praise, in order to experience the buzz, the high, praise gives us...before the inevitable low that follows, and the need to repeat or even excel our past moments.  A subtle thing, by degrees, perhaps un-noticed – as parents don’t notice the day-by-day growth of their children in the way that friends who see them less frequently do – and so it may be that you will need the help of others to identify where our identity is grounded.  If we are to repent, we must observe, reflect, discuss.

This thing, that God reveals to us as we withdraw a while from the society that fuels our mis-placed identity, is the thing we are invited to ‘give up for Lent.’  Stop doing it; and instead, rediscover that God is your father who loves you and is pleased with you.  Repent, and believe.  And having rediscovered this amazing truth, we can take up that thing again, re-aligned.  We can make our delicious cakes – or host parties or make music or address crowds – not for the praise we might get from others, but as an expression of whom God has made us to be, the unique ways in which he has gifted you...recognising that we might lose sight again, might fall off the path again.  And so, again, don’t do it on your own.  Invite a friend, or friends, you trust to help you plan how you will keep sight, stay on the path – for example, by consciously and publically giving thanks to God for his good gifts when you are praised, neither dishonouring him through wallowing in false modesty nor dishonouring him through revelling in false glory – and hold you accountable by calling you out when your identity begins to send out roots into poor ground.  If we are to believe, we must plan, and give those who help us plan permission to hold us to account in relation to our plan, before we act.

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