Lent 1 – Year C

I’m writing a book about the gazillion factual problems with The Da Vinci Code. I’m all about facts. Especially when somebody’s trying to attack my beliefs. Attack away folks – but get your facts right!

A couple weeks ago I submitted a sample chapter to a publisher in Nashville who was recommended by a friend.

This editor calls me up, and we talk on the phone for a little while. The guy seems interested in my idea, but then he asks me:

“Are you an Egalitarian.”

I said, “Umm, maybe?”

He said, “Do you believe in the ordination of women.”

I said, “Oh. Well, of course.”

A couple weeks later he rejected my book – he said I was just … too … liberal.

As it turns out, his company belongs to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Now, as far as I know, nobody’s ever said I was too liberal before.

In fact, all of my life I’ve thought of myself as a fairly conservative guy.

And, in the small corner of the world where I grew up in, I was.

Yes, the world I grew up in was not very accepting of “Openly Believing Christians.”

At the small private school I went to for 13 years, most of the teachers and students were either agnostics, atheists or barely observant Christians or Jews.

As a child believer, I sometimes felt like a reed growing on a windy desert. Because I constantly had to defend myself against skeptics who said that my belief in God was foolish.

People said, “BELIEF is just a crutch.”

They said, “Weak people invented God to help them cross through tough times.”

They said, “Believing in God is like pressing the crosswalk button – you do it even though you know it doesn’t really work!”

Well, I never believed those crosswalk buttons did a darn thing either. But I always prayed to God.

Early on, I had a sense that God was REAL – factual – living – and interested.

I trusted in God’s power to heal and save me.

It’s amazing that I had this BELIEF in God – because honestly, I didn’t learn it at school, on the playground, or even with my Nana and Grandy through long summers in Maine.

When I got older, I began to wonder, “Sure, I believe in God, and I pray to God, but who is Jesus?”

I never really asked that question before I was in my early 20’s. I had always thought, “Hey, I don’t know what’s fact or fiction in the Bible – and I don’t really care. I believe in a mystical and ultimate God of the Universe – and I’m cool with that.”

That’s where I was as a young person.

But then I started finding myself in the desert again – not against outsiders attacking my beliefs, but against … mySELF! I found that it got harder and harder to “connect in prayer” with the “mystical God of my childhood” now that all I wanted to do in life was fulfill my desires and what I thought were my needs.

And guess what – I found myself wandering farther and farther and farther away from the GOD, I’d always known, somehow.

Somehow one day I started thinking – “I’m losing my connection to God – and connecting instead to a darker and darker world temptations and self service.” I thought, “Maybe that’s where Jesus is supposed to come in.”

Remembering my skeptical education, I started reading only the most intellectual and reputable Christian scholarship – assuming honest skeptics would cut through any “religious baloney.”

And I began to encounter a authentic teachings and facts of Christ which are really inspired me deep down.

Here’s what I determined was FACTUAL:

1. Jesus was a man.

2. Jesus studied the Scriptures we call the Old Testament, and he prayed to the God we have come to pray to.

3. Jesus taught that first and foremost “we should trust in God’s power to heal and save.”

4. Jesus and his witnesses believed that he had a unique relationship with God unequalled in human history. He and they believed he was the long-awaited Messiah.

5. Jesus was crucified, and at his death, he forgave his murderers and those who abandoned him.

6. After his crucifixion – Jesus’ presence was experienced by his followers in forms ranging from the mystical to the apparently physical.

7. Within a few months the shocked rabble of disciples went into all the world – and they turned it upside down by inviting people into a personal relationship with the One God of the Universe.

When I joined my childhood belief in God’s mystical reality with a reasoned understanding of the historical reality of Jesus Christ – I began to get very, very excited.

For when I realized in my heart and my mind that Jesus was a historical man, who was uniquely joined to God, and who died on a cross, and who forgave us all – something clicked in me that said, “Trust in Jesus – he is the One who can connect you to the God of mystery.”

And that is when I first BELIEVED.

Friends, belief is not about having “mysterious feelings,” or having knowledge of facts. It requires a mixture of both, but it also requires more.

Belief – as Jesus taught us — is about trust.

It is about trusting the power of God to heal and save. It’s about trusting the one who God sent to lead us safely through this life and beyond. It’s about recognizing the face of the Shepherd.

But now – here’s the rub — if we trust in God’s power to heal and save — then why is it so tempting to think that God won’t meet our true needs?

Why do we who believe, still waste so much time running after safety, security, and the satisfaction of desires?

Why?

Well – do you think maybe it’s because God isn’t the only spiritual force in the universe?

Do you think maybe it’s because Jesus isn’t the only one who wants to help us cross over to another side?

Friends, despite the many temptations of life, please take the time this Lent to reexamine what you know about Jesus Christ.

Study his teaching – study his message – imagine that you know him personally. Touch base with the essence of what Jesus means, and what he means to you. Ask yourself if you really trust him.

I believe that Jesus comes from the Father, and is the only One who will take us to the Father. I believe this is as factual as anything can be. I believe this alone is the whole truth.

Use this lent – and make sure you recognize the Savior.

Because, Jesus isn’t the only one out there. There are others in the desert who can be very, very tempting.

Amen.

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