By Matt Sapp
Many churches that use the Lectionary texts of the Christian calendar have ventured through the Gospel of Luke during Lent. At our church, Heritage Fellowship, we’ve been highlighting lessons that Jesus teaches us about God along the way.
I know it can be hard to keep up with what we’ve been doing from week to week, but I want each of us to arrive at the cross on Good Friday and the empty tomb on Easter Sunday with the fullness of God’s truth in front of us.
So here’s a brief summary of the seven lessons we’re learning from Jesus during Lent.
1. God is most present when we are at our most vulnerable. It’s usually in our darkest places that we feel most alone. But Jesus has been to those same dark places and the God revealed in scripture has been there for Jesus as God is there for you. So never doubt, as Julie Ball reminds us, that “God is there, and God knows how it feels. And God loves you, in the wilderness and on the mountaintop, during Lent and at Easter, in all the year, in all of life.” (Luke 4:1-13)
2. There is an inescapable mystery to God. If we’re going to make it all the way to the cross, we’ll have to learn to embrace it. Mystery—uncertainty about the future—can lead us to two things: fear or hopeful expectation. Our Biblical heroes prayed through fear so that they could work out of hope. We’ll see Jesus do just that in the Garden of Gethsemane in a few weeks. We should do the same thing. (Luke 13:31-35) (Genesis 15:1-18)
3. God creates. Our God is not a God of destruction, even though it’s tempting to think that way sometimes. We learn very little about God through tragedy. Instead, Jesus teaches about a God who creates and nurtures and tends to us. So stop fearing God’s judgment and instead embrace a God who digs into the soil and strengthens your roots. (Luke 13:1-9)
4. God wants you to experience the joy of being found. Jesus teaches us that God is a seeker after lost things. Again, when we expect judgment, God instead overwhelms us with careful and thoughtful demonstrations of just how valuable we are. During this season when we focus on how valuable God is to us, take a minute or two to imagine a God who thinks WE’RE valuable to HIM!! (Luke 15:11-32)
5. God is worthy of extravagant love. Jesus teaches that we ought to be willing to seize holy moments in our lives when God is especially present and real. Emotionally and spiritually healthy people understand that we should spare no expense in welcoming a God into our lives who make us whole again. We’ve learned about a God who spares no expense to welcome us home. Jesus teaches that we should spare no expense in welcoming him, too. (John 12:1-8)
6. God is irrepressibly worthy of our worship. It’s not always safe or prudent or popular to be people who boldly proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. Do it anyway. God’s message of love in Jesus Christ is irrepressible. It will march forward and overwhelm the world with or without us. We might as well get on board now. (Luke 19:28-40)
7. Faith in God is an experiential truth. Faith is not an intellectual proposition or a logical conclusion. Faith, if it is anything at all, is remembered experience. That will be our message for Easter Sunday. (Luke 24:1-12)
If there’s an overarching theme in each of the truths we’re discovering together, it is one of reciprocal value. We are first and foremost individuals whose value to God is beyond measure. That’s the mystery—that God would value us so highly. And second, we are people created to value God and our relationship with Jesus Christ to a degree that is similarly beyond measure.
We live in a world that talks a lot about creating value and assigning worth to work and commodities and products and people. In a world where relative value seems to be of paramount importance, Jesus helps us discover a God who re-frames the whole “value” conversation.
We will never experience the fullness of the Easter miracle until we understand that the God revealed in Jesus Christ redefines our understanding of value and worth. We have two more Sundays before Easter to do just that. I pray we will.