The Church Year reminds us that we Christians are different. We might be tempted to forget that, from time to time. Following the crowd does seem attractive. They seem to know where they are going. But…remember bell-bottom jeans, pet rocks and Beanie Babies? Maybe, the crowd is not always headed in the best direction.
So, we have a Church Year that sends us into Lent. While our neighbors in the Northern Hemisphere are counting the minutes of daylight that are added each week and looking for blooming daffodils and robins, we are standing with Jesus, as He has come down from the mountain-top moment of His transfiguration, looking down the road that leads to the cross.
Oh, you can look for daffodils and robins and count the extra minutes of daylight, too, but Lent reminds us that there is something else going on. In Romans 12, Paul reminds us that we are different: “…I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” I offer these verses because they help me get to the point about Lent.
What the NET translates as “reasonable” in Greek is a word that really is difficult to translate. On the one hand, the word is used by philosophers to mean “reasonable (in Greek, logike).” On the other hand, the New Testament only uses this word once, here in Romans 12. There is a similar word used by Peter in his first letter, talking about the “milk” of the Word of God that we should crave, and Paul uses a similar word to talk about how Abraham’s obedience was “credited” to him as righteousness.
I would suggest that there is another word that might help us understand it all. John calls Jesus the Logos. Logos brings with it those Greek ideas about order and structure and connects them with Proverbs 8, in Wisdom describes its role in Creation. In Jesus, Paul will summarize all this for the Colossians, “all things are held together.” So, Romans 12 tells us that our service is “Christ-shaped.” Our identity is “Christ-shaped.”
This makes us different. “Christ-shaped” means that “our citizenship is in heaven—and we await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” so our focus is beyond the present moment. As we sing with the old hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.” “Christ-shaped” also means that we “carry the cross.” We might think of this as a particular burden in our lives, but Jesus means that our lives are “cross-shaped.” “Cross-shaped” means that we look for God to meet us in Jesus in all sorts of places—like the cross. We know He will meet us in our losses and our sorrow—even in our sins—with His help, forgiveness, and love.
The ashes on our foreheads from Ash Wednesday focus our attention on His cross and remind us as we walk out into the world—as He met us in such a place as His cross—He will meet us in those places in our journey that feel “cross-shaped.”
Joy in your Lenten journey,
Pastor Jeff Shearier