31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 2, 2017
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Since the fourth century, the Church has observed the holy season of Lent. Originally, these forty days were a time for converts to prepare for their new lives as Christ’s disciples and for their baptisms on Easter.
We might assume that this preparation for new converts included learning the practices and ways of the Church, learning the prayers and traditions, basically learning how to be a good and “proper” Christian.
Certainly, that was what my own Confirmation process looked like, but maybe this assumption would be wrong. Maybe these forty days of preparation were a time to reflect upon the power of God’s unconditional love. Maybe these forty days of preparation were the time for new converts to be fully transformed by God’s grace.
As we’ve walked this season of Lent, we’ve heard the call to experience God’s holy in the outdoors, to love simply and fully as Christ loves, and even before Lent began, I encouraged you to take steps to be made new in Christ. To be made new in Christ by fasting from those things that distract us from Jesus and crowd out God. To be new in Christ by literally taking physical steps to serve others.
As you’ve walked your Lenten journey these past four weeks, have you felt yourself becoming new in Christ? Have you felt yourself becoming closer with God, as you set aside time for prayer and study, time to serve your neighbor, time to care for yourself?
Or have the spiritual practices of fasting from technology, walking to serve others, finding moments of quiet reflection, felt more like tasks to pile on an already busy schedule?
Has this been a holy season of Lent for you? Or just a series of snow days and rain days, work days and running around crazy days?
For the past four weeks, have you had your eyes open to how Jesus is making you new? Or has all of your busyness put blinders on your eyes? Or worse, have you been sleepwalking through Lent?
Sometimes, we can hear the good news of God’s love, understand the good news of God’s love, know the good news of God’s love, and still be blind to it.
The gospel of Luke shows us that all too well. The twelve have been with Jesus for three years. He has taught them to “fish” for people; he has taught them about the kingdom of God; he has shown them the healing power of God’s grace – and yet, when he tells the twelve what the final plan is – how he will be handed over to the Gentiles, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, and killed – and on the third day, rise again. “[T]hey understood nothing about all these things; in fact what [Jesus] said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Luke 18:34).
Long hours spent walking with Jesus, days and weeks spent at his side, and still, the twelve were blind to Jesus’ mission – because their minds and eyes were focused on something else.
Yes, they knew they were going up to Jerusalem but to victory, to Jesus’ triumphant take-over. They did not understand, they did not want to understand that military might and human power was not God’s plan.
Ironically, it was the blind man begging by the side of the road who saw best of all. As Jesus passes him by, he shouts out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38) The blind man understood about God’s love. The blind man knew how much God loved him, and he also knew that through God’s Spirit, Jesus could heal him.
The blind man received his sight because his eyes were already open to how Christ could make him new.
Those who saw Zacchaeus thought they knew who he was. He was a chief tax collector and rich to boot, which to his Jewish community also meant he was a turncoat and a thief. They judged Zacchaeus as short in stature – socially and physically.
But Zacchaeus knew who he was. Despite his occupation, he was a righteous man who sought to praise and please God.
Jesus also saw Zacchaeus for who he really was. When Jesus saw him up in that tree, Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
And Zacchaeus did hurry down. He joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home, into his life, into his heart.
Zacchaeus received salvation because his eyes were already open to how Christ could make him new.
Are your eyes open to how God is blessing you this day? Are your eyes open to the depth of God’s unconditional love for you? Are your eyes open to how Jesus Christ is making you new?
Faith is the posture of having our eyes open. Faith is the conviction that God is always with us, the trust that God is working through us, the certainty that God always loves us.
As we prepare for Easter, as we prepare for the biggest blessing in our lives, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the celebration of God’s ultimate sacrifice done out of love for us, I invite you to reflect upon God’s love. Reflect upon God’s love for you.
Reflect upon God’s love and then reflect God’s love. Let God’s grace seep deep down into the core of who you are. Let God fill up all of those broken places inside of you. Let God take the blinders off of your eyes so that you can truly see – see depth and breadth of God’s love for you, see the magnitude of God’s blessings all around us.
Reflect upon God’s love. Reflect God’s love. Be made new in Jesus Christ.