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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

February 2018

Matthew 16:21-26 reads:  “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the   elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on    divine things, but on human things.’ Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and    follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’”

The Message, a contemporary version of the New Testament, provides this rendering:  “Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, ‘Impossible, Master! That can never be!’ But Jesus didn’t swerve. ‘Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.’ Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”

The season of Lent begins on February 14 with Ash Wednesday. We begin a forty day journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross that might begin with our declaring “Impossible, Master! That can never be!” and Jesus going to work on us, his disciples saying “let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I will show you how.”

This world will attempt to show you how to avoid suffering at all costs. Just pay close attention to all the     advertising that is out there and see how this is true. We buy into this false doctrine all the time, so much so that we carry that with us into church and expect that we will leave with a warm fuzzy feeling and if we don’t have that experience in worship, then we leave feeling empty, like having gone to a movie that left us disappointed.

We need our Lenten journey with Jesus. We need Jesus to exclaim “Satan, get lost!” and show us truth, how God works. We need Jesus to go to work on us in these forty days to show us what it is to live out our baptismal calling as children of God, our true selves. I especially like The Message’s wording “Self-help is no help at all.” Let the season of Lent lead you in discovering how to get out of the way, for you have no idea how God works. Jesus does. Let him lead you to embrace the cross of Good Friday, where the devil and all his empty promises is silenced forever and the joy of the empty tomb resounds in just three short days.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:3-5

There’s nothing like a little Lenten therapy for the Christian soul. ☺  Make worship a priority for you this Lent and let Jesus take control of the steering wheel.

Pastor Alan

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