Jesus said, "Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day, I must be on my way."
Jesus refused to deviate from God's mission for the world, despite both threats to his life and the risk of appearing to be a coward. And through your own desires for yourself and other, Jesus call you to follow him.
Who or what gives you courage? What are your fears? Can you talk to Jesus about all of them now?
Our culture’s logic says, “We can change!” Christians like us believe it’s possible to change and not be sinners anymore. But in Galatians chapter 2, Paul wrote:
But if I build up again the very things I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I’m a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I’ve been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Notice, Paul’s goal was to rebuild what he once tore down, not to improve himself. Rebuilding proved he was a sinner, it did not make him not a sinner.
Martin Luther, like many before and since, said we cannot not sin. That’s the bad news: not that we sin, but that we’re sinners. But thanks be to God, we’re not only sinners. By God’s grace through faith in Christ, we are both sinners and saints. Both/and, not either/or. All of the above.
Paul might’ve liked Brene Brown’s rule: “If you screw up, you clean it up.” Try doing that this Lent and for the rest of your life. Let God worry about changing you. (Spoiler: God already did). Just clean it up. Rebuild it.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Clark Olson-Smith
One of my favorite songs is “Love the House You're In” by Spencer Krug. It starts like this:
I regretfully withdraw my offer to try to improve myself
I sincerely believe the results would be disaster
To some, this will sound like heresy. Lent is a season to renew the struggle against sin and evil. What can that mean but improving ourselves?
Isaiah 64 is one of Israel’s great confessions of sin. Israel admitted to God, “we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Self-improvement can be a disaster. We do a lot of damage in the name of “improvement.” It can also be a trap, keeping us focused on ourselves. Worse, it can be an act of rebellion against God, not the righteous work we imagine it is. As if we are telling the Potter to butt out, we’ll take it from here.
Can you surrender yourself to the Potter’s merciful, transforming hands? I keep learning the hard way that I’d rather be in control than be healed, made whole, made new by God.
“Love the House You're In” or simply being all of the above—bruised and blessed, bruising and beloved—means this utter dependence on God. This purple Lenten struggle is nothing more or less than to relax into the Potter's hands.
Notice the purple around the sanctuary this time of year. One grieving mom, returning to church in Lent, said, “The church looked how I felt: bruised.” Can you resonate? Do you feel bruised? You’re not alone. Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.
I remember more than my own bruises. Purple is a color of penitence. I am a sinner. I bruise others. I’m both bruised and bruising. Can you talk to Jesus about the bruises you bear and the bruises you cause? Can you rest in God’s healing mercy?
Purple points to God’s healing mercy for you, as you are, because purple is also a color of royalty and riches. So you are not just bruised. You are not just bruising. You are also richly blessed and a beloved child of the King of Love.
As Christ is both crucified and risen, so you are bruised and blessed, bruising and beloved. I’ve wasted a lot of time, energy, and breath trying to prove I’m one but not another. What wondrous, liberating healing to simply be all of the above.