Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Crippled Sheep, Facebook, and Lent

As I was on Facebook last night the status of a friend read "...is on for the last day until April 4th". It took me a few seconds to figure out what she was talking about until the light bulb went off and I realized April 4th was Easter which meant Lent was starting - which you think I would have realized as I still had the fruit filling dripping off my lips from enjoying our Fat Tuesday Paczkis! (You’ve got to love any holiday that celebrates with doughnuts!)

For years Lent was a foreign concept to this Fundamental independent Baptist raised girl yet now I live and move in a community of Irish Catholics and Protestant traditions that recognize Lent. It boggles my mind every year to see people walking around with an ash cross on their foreheads. I say to my chagrin that I don't think I could do that - the Lenten version of wearing your heart on your sleeve. I've also never succeeded in giving up anything. I always think about it and always think the most sacrificial thing I could do would be coffee... (She types as she reaches for the hot cup of that very stuff next to her....) But I’m familiar with my own heart and know that I’d spend the next forty days trying to find a substitute and that I’d be really crabby and would be acting in a decidedly un Jesus- like fashion- which I believe kind of defeats the whole purpose!

In all of it though, drinking or not drinking, cross or no cross, it comes down to what is in our hearts. God hates false worship – He’d rather have no worship that a worship of words without the inclusion of your heart.

In Malachi God rebuked His people saying, “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, it that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you? Oh that you would shut the temple doors , so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you…Cursed is the cheat that has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” (1:8,10,14)
You remember the rules don’t you? The people of Israel were to bring a sheep for sacrifice that was perfect, strong and without any kind of defect. The sheep’s death would serve as the atonement for the sins of the people. Can’t you hear the wheels turning though? Why should I take my best animal? He’d be a great breeder and/ or he’s worth a lot of money? Why should I give my very best just to partake in some tradition we’ve been observing for thousands of years? It’s going to be killed anyway, hundreds of sheep will come through those gates today, what possible difference could it make?

The condition of the sheep didn’t make a difference; however the heart condition of the giver made all the difference in the world. Remember the widow of Mark 12 who put her two mites into the offering and was commended by Jesus because others had given from their abundance but she’d given all she had? She’d given her best.

How are our hearts? Are we bringing God the best we have; the best of our time, talents and energy? You, in ministry, it’s so easy (because it’s so busy!) to slip into doing just what you have to in program or preparation, so you can get onto the next thing! We all have more tasks than time, more month than money, more give than take, but we also have the ability, in whatever it is we’re doing, or not doing (in the case of Lent), to offer it to God from true hearts, bringing our best and thereby affirming that “You are a great King Lord God Almighty! You are worthy of the very best that I have!”

1 comment:

aspiemom said...

Thanks for the mention.

The pastor had talked about fasting, why we do it, why you shouldn't, the reasons, etc.

As you said, Becky, it all comes from the heart. I'm fasting from Facebook not because I will be closer to heaven. I need to reprioritize my time and energy. I have to face things that are bothering me that I have bandaged over with friends on the internet.

In any case, it is truly a heart issue as you said and I know that God will honor my fast, whether it's from meat or from Facebook.