Johannes Baptist Metz writes that becoming a human being is both a mission and a mandate. We are not given our humanity or our destiny as other animals who simply live out of their “natures.” That’s what dogs do. That’s what cats do. That’s what a lion does. And then of course the next statement is, that is what humans do. To which Oscar Wilde responded that if a person says they were just acting like a human being you can pretty much count on their having just behaved as an animal.
Your mission and my mission is to be fully human. We want to live up to and through what is most noble about that. This is also a mandate, a call and command to us to grow, expand, and reach for what is best in ourselves and others. This Lenten season offers us a chance to be introspective about how we’re doing with that mandate. We do so within the Christian religious context of Christ’s forty days temptation in the wilderness. There he struggled with his human poverty and limits, resisted the temptation to be something other than what God had called him to be and stepped into and through his destiny as the Savior of the world. When he finished those temptations, he came out of the wilderness preaching that God’s Kingdom was near. What about us? What about you? If you’re going to “give up something for Lent,” then how about this: give up those less-than-noble calls that would diminish your humanity and dignity, your life in God. And embrace the mission and mandate to be like Christ. If we do that, we might awaken to that kingdom that Jesus proclaimed is very near.
Here’s what I saw today on the first Sunday of February, on my 22nd anniversary as your pastor: a choir and musicians who inspired us with beautiful music (notice I didn’t use the word, “entertain,” but inspire–they sang from their souls for God and for God’s people); a diverse congregation who, when they had the chance at the Peace of Christ, embraced one another; I heard laughter, the exchanges of peace and greetings between congregants, our children with smiles on their faces, two of our children displaying their Tai Kwan Do skills and being blessed and affirmed by the adults; a young man we’ve known since he was knee-high to a grasshopper arriving at 7:30 to lend me a hand setting up for church; leaders who worked behind the scenes to extend pastoral care and to insure we have heat; people reaching out to friends and inviting them to church; the proclamation of faith; a young adult covenanting with us to love God and others in this place; Holy Communion woven into our lives like golden thread; in short, I saw the Church today. We showed up. We worshipped. We were blessed and we blessed.
Have a great week. Go heal the world. Do not tire of well doing. And as the choir sang to us, Stand.