Monday, April 18, 2011

Whose Palm branches are you seeking after?

Below is the message I shared with Good Shepherd yesterday, Palm Sunday.  It is a discussion about who we are seeking to get praise and acceptance from.  I think it is an important question for us to think about and a appropriate one for Holy Week.  God Bless. 

Mark 11:1-11 (New International Version, ©2011)

 1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
   “Hosanna![a]”    “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”    “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

Palm Sunday is a day of celebration.  A day where we remember (and often reenact what is usually called Jesus’ ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem. 
It is also the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week in the life of our church and our faith.
It is also a Sunday of contradictions. 
Palm Sunday usually is focused on the celebration
Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Here comes David’s Son – the rightful and deserving King!
These are the words that ring out from the crowd of people that greet Jesus as he enters the streets of Jerusalem
These are the words that are echoed in this church and in churches around the world on this and every ‘Palm’ Sunday
And in other words Jesus is praised every week, everyday even.
But Palm Sunday, is also the start of Holy Week
And we all know what Holy Week holds
Maundy Thursday & Good Friday
Judas betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ trial & Jesus’ suffering And finally Jesus crucifixion and death
The contradiction between the praise of the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday and the jeers of ‘crucify him’ on Friday is as sharp as they come.
It’s the kind of contradiction that can only come from a crowd – a crowd seeking to be pleased, amazed, impressed and entertained. 
A crowd that is quickly restless and easily led astray
A crowd that led me to think about our focus for this morning: submitting our praise to God
When it comes to submitting our praise to God I think it is really as simple as this:  We must choose to submit our desire for ‘the praise of the crowd’ in order to really and truly seek after the ‘praise’ of God, praise that comes in being faithful to God’s call on our lives
While Palm Sunday, and the cheering adoration of the crowd that followed Jesus is a familiar story for most of us – have we ever really stopped and thought about what it must have felt like to be greeted like that
Can you imagine having people shouting your name, literally cheering your name and praising you?  Bowing down to worship you?  It must have been an intoxicating feeling.  One that only a few people in our world can in any way relate to. 
Jesus must have been tempted here.  Tempted to give the crowd what it wanted – whatever it wanted – to keep their praise. 
But whatever temptation Jesus felt, he did not give into it. 
Instead of chasing after the cheers of the crowd, Jesus sought the praise and congratulations of his father in heaven, eventually saying ‘Your will, not mine be done.’
Few of us will ever have the experience of praise from the world that Jesus had on that first Palm Sunday. 
But all of us can strive for the praise that Jesus sought.  The affirmation of ‘well done, my God and faithful servant’ spoken from the mouth of God.
Our family recently watched a movie called, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’.
The movie (with its sequel now in theaters) is based on a successful series of books for young readers.
Greg, the main character – spends most of the movie desperately trying to move up the social ladder during his first year of middle school. 
In the process (which involves a lot of laughter for the audience) he alienates, belittles and betrays the only people that are truly interesting in being his friend and that really care for him.
Despite all of his attempts to win favor and gain acceptance and (literal) applause he doesn’t find it – even when he is doing something he is good at.
The closest he comes is when he has a chance to be a part in the school musical – he has a great voice – but due to circumstances almost entirely of his own making, he is first left out of the lead role, and then makes an embarrassing display during the performance, ruining the whole show
All of Greg’s work and self-centered effort to become popular results not in acceptance and praise, but instead he ends up losing the only friends he had and is left totally alone. 
It is only when he makes a personal sacrifice – in a public way, that paints him in a decidedly ‘not cool’ light that he begins to find meaning, happiness and real acceptance. 
The lure of popularity and applause can easily lead to selfish and misguided efforts that end not with happiness and fulfillment but empty achievements and loneliness
The story also gives a positive contrast to Greg’s striving for acceptance and popularity.
This contrast comes in the form of Rawley, Greg’s best friend – Rawley strive’s to ‘just be himself’ and do what makes him happy.
Throughout the film, Greg keeps trying to ‘help’ Rawley by steering him away from acting like who he really is and doing what he likes – because those things are usually not ‘cool’
Greg is right, Rawley is not ‘cool’, the way he talks isn’t cool, the way he acts isn’t cool and the things he likes are, for the most part not ‘cool’. 
But he sticks to what he likes, what he believe and who he is and In the process, he becomes more and more accepted, respected and liked than Greg, and even enjoys moments of actual popularity and acclaim.
So, now let’s head back to Palm Sunday, Jesus and the adoring crowd
We know that Jesus made the choice to seek the will and the praise of God rather than chase after the continued praise of the crowd – a choice that makes all the difference for us.
But what motivated those crowds? Why were they there praising Jesus?
What were they looking for from Jesus?
what motivates us to join the crowd around Jesus?
What do we seek in Jesus?
What do we believe he has come to accomplish?
Why do we pledge our allegiance to him on Sunday and yet all too often turn our attention elsewhere the rest of the week?
These are questions we take with us, but whatever our motivation, we are called to submit to God in all areas of our lives.  This means following the example of Jesus – even on Palm Sunday, even during Holy Week. 
We can chase the praise of the world or instead follow after the will and call, and praise of God. 
But we have to choose which one we will seek after.
the praise of the world is fleeting and fickle (Palm Sunday, the perfect example – praise on Sunday, only a few days before they began to shout ‘crucify him’)
Seeking God’s praise, on the other hand, will sometimes lead us to make choices that aren’t cool and that decidedly leave us out of the ‘in crowd’, and often are about making sacrifices,
But seeking after the will, call and praise of God is also the only way we can be who we were created to be.  Who God calls us to be and who we were meant to be.
It is only in living into the selves that we were designed to be – not in chasing the approval and applause of the crowd – that we find true happiness, true joy and real fulfillment. 
When we submit our desire for the approval of the world, the roar of the crowd and the lure of popular acceptance so that we can seek after the praise of God we learn that God has already accepted us, and we begin to see who we really are – and what God is calling us to be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Confessions of a nail biter

As many of you know I have been trying to quit biting my fingernails as what I 'gave up' for Lent.  I guess what I gave up would be 'nail biting'.  I have to say, it is actually been going fairly well.  You can see white at the tip of each of my 10 fingernails and I am certain that has never happened before in my adult life.  Still a work in progress though.  
In a prior post I talked about the spiritual aspects of this work - actually wanting to quit and how that relates to our lives in relationship with God, and about not dwelling in our failures so that we can live into what God has for us next.  
I continue to see parallels between this exercise of not biting my nails and our faith journeys.  Let's start with my nail biting.  As I said, I am actually doing a pretty good job of not biting my nails.  But an interesting (and for me unfortunate) thing has happened.  Now that my fingers are not in my mouth any more, I have been eating a lot more.  I noticed it the other day.  I didn't even realize it but I had basically spent the whole afternoon snacking on one thing after another.  
My nail biting had left a hole in my activity - and literally a space in my mouth - and I was filling it with eating food.  Some of my nail biting could certainly be attributed to nervousness (I am nervous person), but a lot of it was simply habit.  I was doing, without thinking, something I was used to doing.
When I stopped doing it - or when I tried to stop doing it - I didn't intentionally put anything in its place.  So, without any conscious thought on the subject, I found that I had replaced my nail biting with eating.  Not good for the waistline.  At.  All.  
But this is where the connection is for our lives of faith.  
It is good and important to stop things that we are doing that aren't life-giving, healthy or in line with God's will for our lives and the world.  But, as we are doing that we have to be aware of the space in our lives and in our hearts that taking away those activities will leave.  
We have to make a decision about what we are going to fill that space with or it will get filled on its own.  And if we aren't intentional about what we fill that space with, it will likely be filled with something just as harmful to us as what it is replacing (from a health standpoint, it would actually be better for me to go back to biting my nails and stop eating so much).  
When we take something out of our lives - especially something that has been there for a long time - the space that is left exposed will be tender and sensitive.  It hasn't seen the light of day in a while.  
We have to be intentional about removing the things (habits, thoughts, attitudes, etc) from our life that don't fit with who God has called us to be.  But we have to be just as intentional about what we put back into the space those things occupied.  
A pastor I know was trying to quit smoking and was having a really difficult time.  Eventually what helped him was finding a prayer that he could memorize and pray.  The prayer took about 2-3 minutes to say all the way through, this was almost exactly as long as it took him to smoke a cigarette and about as long as one of his intense cravings would last.  
If he was able to make it through the whole prayer without lighting a cigarette, he found that he almost always was able to resist the urge.  
He had to fill the space before he could let go of those cigarettes.  
Of course it isn't always as simple as 'insert prayer here', but it provides a model.  I don't know what spaces you need to open in your life (I am busy identifying all of mine!) but I know that starting that process by inviting God into that space and asking the Holy Spirit to fill it is a good start.  
I am a nail biter.  I am trying to stop.  I am asking God to open my eyes to how that space can be filled according to his will.  
More nail related thoughts tomorrow.
God bless.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Finding our place in the story of Lazarus or you too can be a part of the resurrection

Hi all, I have been unable to post as much as I would like in the past couple of weeks.  I have been busy focused on Holy Week and Easter.  Interestingly enough, I have about 5 posts ready to go, I simply need to find the time to write them out.  I know, I know you are waiting with baited breath.  So, with no further ado, below is the message I shared on Sunday at Good Shepherd.  It is a continuation of the Lenten series of submitting to God and it is also 'Lazarus Sunday' which is an event organized by the organization, One, that draws attention to the world AIDS/HIV epidemic and how we can (and are) making a difference.  

Luke 12:48 (New International Version, ©2011)
48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

John 11:1-45 (New International Version, ©2011)

 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
   “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
 35 Jesus wept.
 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
   Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Today, as we draw ever nearer to Holy Week, the cross and eventually the empty tomb.  We find ourselves listening to a story that is hinting at the rest of the story to come. 
The story of Lazarus and Jesus’ resurrection of him from the grave is an amazing and fantastic one  - but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t connected to it – This isn’t one of the miracle stories, where we just say, ‘I wish I would have been there’, take it as proof of Jesus divinity and move on.
The story of Lazarus is more important than that because, at least in some small way, it is our story too.
Lazarus’ story is, not just another miracle story, because the entire gospel hinges on resurrection – and in this story we can learn about what resurrection is really about and what it means for us.
It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that death is defeated forever. 
But the resurrection of Jesus and through Jesus is about som much more than that.
It also provides the starting point of a new reality.
People with hope rooted in resurrection, by the very presence, power and reality of that hope, do God’s work in order to participate in God’s transformation of this world into the kingdom of God – a new reality that we can begin to live into right now, that is shaped by God’s grace.
Resurrection is both the promise we place our trust in and the reality that compels us to participate in God’s mission for the sake of the world.
The fundamental connection between our hope in the resurrection and our call to participate in the mission of God in this world, right now was made for me when I received an invitation for our congregation to participate in ‘Lazarus Sunday’
Lazarus Sunday, timed to coincide with our gospel reading for today, is an initiative of the advocacy organization ‘One’ – which was founded by Bono, the lead singer for the band U2. 
Lazarus Sunday is an effort to raise awareness about the global AIDS/HIV epidemic and encourage involvement in treatment and prevention.
The name for the day is drawn from the biblical story, but also from a something called ‘The Lazarus Effect’. 
The Lazarus effect is the incredible transformation of individuals who are dying of AIDS – nearly at deaths door – to making a full, vibrant recovery because of access to of access to effective, life-saving Anti-Retroviral drugs or ARV’s.   
AIDS is now both preventable and treatable, yet it has killed over 20 million people in Africa alone.  Each day, however, these ARVs help people living with HIV/AIDS to stay alive.
The cost of these pills is about 40 cents a day, and they can miraculously transform the life of someone living with AIDs in as few as 40 days.    Even at 40 cents a day, many families cannot afford this medicine. 
In 2002 only 50,000 Africans we on ARVs, now there are 4 million with access to these life-saving drugs. 
How? Primarily through organizations like One and individuals like us advocating for our government to continue to lead the way in supporting these treatments through the Global Fund and PEPFAR
And also through private non-profit and individual donations and efforts working with or in place of governmental agencies.
Simply put, by giving a little of themselves – their time, energy, possessions (or money that would have gone to buy possessions) - people are able to participate in what is almost literally a resurrection for those suffering from this disease. 
I believe that as Christians our hope in the resurrection - and the new life to come, must lead us to work for, sustain and create whole, full and healthy life here and now. 
On the face of it, it would seem an easy choice to make  - give up a few possessions or buy a few less things and save some lives, provide for health and healing. 
And put that way, it is simple. 
But of course, it isn’t that simple.  For good or bad – and usually both – we find much of our identity and our own worth in what we have: the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the house we live in, etc. 
Our possessions – our stuff, even if it doesn’t quite define us, give great insight into what is important to us, what and how we value.
But really following Jesus – truly submitting our lives to him - means laying even those things that define us down at his feet and giving them over to God.
This is why Jesus told Peter, James & John  to ‘lay down your nets and follow me’ – (Those nets & their work defined them)
It is why Jesus told the rich, young ruler to sell all of his possessions and then follow (He loved his wealth & what it bought him)
It is why he continually challenged the Pharisee’s to submit their letter of the law understanding of God to them (they could possess the written law – and they did.  But in holding so tightly to the law they could grasp, they were literally missing their savior.
In the story of Lazarus we see a fore shadow of the work and wonder that Jesus will accomplish on the cross. 
But we also see a invitation to participate with God, in the here and now, in bringing the kingdom of God – and even resurrection into the world and to God’s children
We are so often afraid of letting go of or submitting our possessions to God because we are afraid that God might take them away – That is a real possibility.
But we are not defined by our possessions – no matter what we might think
Instead we are defined and shaped by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ. 
If we continue to seek out our identities in the stuff we have –even if it is good stuff, we will never truly ‘find’ ourselves.
But if we are willing to, as Jesus says ‘lose ourselves’ for his sake – and we have to be willing to lose or at the very least use what we have been given for the sake of Jesus and those Jesus loves. 
It is only then, in participating in the creation of the kingdom of God and the resurrection of the world that we can truly find ourselves. 
Jesus is telling us that it is in commitments to Him and the work that He has for us to do that we discover who we are and what our lives are all about.
So, then.  There are some questions for us to consider on this Lazarus Sunday:
What are you willing to do (or better what of yours are you willing to give up or have less of) in order to bring (new) life to the dying in the world around you?
The Lazarus effect is an example of literally bringing life to those in need – but this only happens if people invest in the lives of other people, even people they will never meet
Where can you be investing what you have (and who you are) in saving life and giving life to those around us?
As Jesus comes to Lazarus’ tomb he began to weep – We have to be moved by the plight of God’s children, our brothers and sisters.  So moved that, just like Jesus, we are compelled to do something – anything that we can, giving anything that we have – to help them. 
After Jesus weeps, he then acts to rectify the situation, using what was available to him to bring (literal) resurrection to Lazarus (and of course, to the whole world).
This is our call to participate in and respond to the grace of resurrection.  To create our own Lazarus effect in the lives and the world around us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bruno Mars, Pink, Jane's Addiction and the Body of Christ

Below is the message I shared on Sunday with Good Shepherd.  It is part of our Lenten series on submitting ourselves to God.  The topic on Sunday was submitting our bodies to God.  It is an important, but often overlooked part of living our lives for God - what we do with our bodies.  

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (New International Version, ©2011)
 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

1 Corinthians 6:17, 19-20 (New International Version, ©2011)

17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.[a] 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Mark 12:28-34 (New International Version, ©2011)
 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”     29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”   32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

This week, for whatever reason, I really heard God speaking through music.  Different parts of songs I heard were leading me to new understandings or thoughts about how we can fully submit to God  with all of ourselves – meaning not just our minds, our hearts, our souls and will but with our bodies too.
I think these new understandings begin with how we see ourselves and how we view our bodies.  And this is where the first musical interlude broke into my thought process
There were actually two songs that are making a similar point, one is sort of an anthem of empowerment and encouragement to the singer and to the listener and the other is more of a traditional love song.  The first song is by Pink and it is called ‘Perfect’ – the verses talk about making mistakes, being afraid and fighting against the negative voices inside our own minds. 
Then the chorus has these words: Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel Like you're less than, less than perfect .  (Repeat) You are perfect to me! 
The second song, the love song, is called ‘Just the way you are’ by Bruno Mars.  This is, as I said, basically a straight up love song, with the verses talking about different (all physical, by the way attributes) of this girl he loves.  The chorus goes like this: When I see your face, There's not a thing that I would change.  Cause you're amazing.  Just the way you are.  And when you smile, The whole world stops and stares for awhile.  Cause girl you're amazing.  Just the way you are
Both of these songs are pretty catchy and very popular at the moment,  but as I kept catching parts of these songs this week, one thought kept sticking in my head – and it is a thought that I just couldn’t shake.
These songs are lying.  The message they are putting forth simply isn’t true.  We aren’t perfect. None of us is at a place where there is nothing we should change
It’s not that they don’t have a good message (In fact I think Pink’s song, in particular has a very good message about liking and caring for yourself) or that the feelings aren’t genuine (although, I will mention again all of the attributes mentioned in the ‘love song’ are physical).  It’s that regardless of what we might want to or like to believe – we know the truth. 
We all have things we could or should change, we all have ways that we could be better or different.  That is just a simple fact of living in the broken and sinful world we call earth.   How we deal with and think about our imperfection directly leads to how we treat and care for our bodies.  
I believe that our awareness (even if it isn’t a conscious thought) of our own physical imperfections often lead us to treat our bodies differently than we should.
The final musical interlude is just a throwaway line from a song called ‘Jane Says’ by the band “Jane’s addiction’ The song is 25 years old, but somehow I heard this line at least 4 times this week.  The song is about someone that loves someone that just doesn’t have a great deal of regard or care and concern for them. 
The singer cries, ‘You treat me like a rental’.  An interesting line.
What does it mean to treat something or someone like a rental?  At least in part, it means you don’t value or appreciate whatever it is. 
Last week, while our van was having some work done we had a rental car for 2 day.   The car was fine.  But it clearly was a rental – it had less than 1,500 miles on it, but there was gum and garbage in the ash tray, several marks on the interior and it already had a few ‘dings’ on the outside of the car.  This car hadn’t even had an oil change yet and it was already ‘used’.  This car, clearly, was no one’s baby.  No one took pride in this car. 
And while there are people paid to maintain that rental car and the countless others like it – no one claims it as their own.
Simply no one really VALUED the Car.  Sure the rent-a-car place saw it as an investment, but the kind of value I am talking about is about much more than money.  You care differently for something you value or that is valued by a friend or loved one.  
And when we had it, just like the other renters before us – we were careful not to do any damage – certainly not anything we would have to pay for – but if I am being honest, it was the bare minimum of care and concern. 
Now contrast that to how we would have treated that care if we have borrowed it from a friend, neighbor or family member
When someone we know and care about has let us use something of theirs, we are usually very careful of how it gets treated –extra steps in protection and definitely in cleaning. Certainly more than we would if it were a rental or usually even if it were our own. 
What does this have to do with our bodies and with submitting them to God?  I think everything. 
There is a Latin phrase that I learned in seminary, called Imago Dei  and while it took me awhile to understand what it really meant, I believe that it is one of the most beautiful truths of our Christian faith and creation.
Basically the phrase, Imago Dei – simply translated as ‘The Image of God - is a reminder that each of us is created in the Image of God.  Every single one of us was made to resemble God and to be a image bearer in this world for God’s love, grace and Spirit.
This truth is reinforced when we hear the words from the reading from 1Corintians:
But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.[a]19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
We are united with Christ when we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives.  Once we have been united with Christ our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit – that means our bodies are one of the places where the Holy Spirit of God is able to express the worship to God. 
And did you catch the next to the last sentence, ‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price’
Our bodies are not some cheap throwaway that we have bought for ourselves.  Our bodies are not rentals, that don’t really have an owner that cares for them or sees them as something other than property or an asset. 
No, our bodies are not our own, because they bear the Imago Dei, the Image of God and they are given to us, by God to steward and take care of.  Our bodies are God’s bought with the heavy price of the blood of Jesus.
Our bodies – no matter how we care for them and treat them are not perfect – we do have things we need to change: eating habits, smoking, exercise, all of those, whatever
But this doesn’t mean that we aren’t valuable, that how we treat our bodies and how we use our bodies doesn’t matter
And while we are not capable of making our bodies, or any other part of who we are perfect, we have access to perfection in use and purpose by allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
When that happens we are united with Christ, and that union with Christ is union with the perfection of the one living and true God.
We have access to this perfection – but it comes with responsibility as well – the responsibility to treat our bodies, not like a rental and not even like they are our own, but rather to treat our bodies as what they truly are in, Jesus Christ’s.
How would you care for Christ’s body?
Would you take care what you fed Jesus if you had the opportunity? 
While you would, of course want to share with him the tastiest food possible, would you not also take special care to make sure that what you were giving him was healthy?  That it would sustain him?  Would Jesus care about how the food got to his plate – was it grown and harvested sustainably?  Were the farmers paid a fair price for it? 
Would you make your best effort to make sure that Jesus’ body remained fit and healthy, if it was your responsibility?  That it was treated like a temple – a vehicle for and location of the worship of God. 
Would you not endeavor to find every possible way to allow the body of Christ to actively worship God and spend time in communication with God?
Could you worship God through exercise?   Could you worship God through dance?  Could you worship God through using your body in prayer? 
Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  When we begin to look at our own bodies as bearers of the Image of God and even as the very body of Christ we can begin to see them not as broken and imperfect – but as vehicles for worship, opportunities to praise something of value and worth that must be carefully cared for. 
[See bottom of post for several ways of doing this including directions for a ‘Body prayer’ exercise.  This exercise – which is really a devotion – has three sets of scripture readings, prayer ‘postures’ and then prayers to pray.]
We are called to love God, serve God and submit to God with all of who we are. Our mind, our soul, our spirit, our strength and all of our bodies. 
When we begin to see ourselves as image bearers for God and our bodies as the body of Christ, we can understand the value that our bodies have. 
And we see the ability to worship and praise that we have access to through our bodies, as well.
Let us be ready to bear the image of God, in unity with Jesus Christ – through the power of the Holy Spirit with all of our hearts, all of our minds and all of our strength – all of us, all of what we have  and all of who we are, as a response to the God that gave all –even his very body for us. 

Submitting our Bodies to God: Healthy Living Helps & Postures for Prayer
For information about how to get involved in the ‘Let’s Move’ Initiative head to this link: &
For information about healthy eating habits and ways of thinking Biblically about what we eat, check out these links:   
There are several ‘Christian’ options in this area, all can be found in various places, found through a simple search.  These include: The Daniel Fast, take back your temple, and ‘what would Jesus eat?
Prayer Posture One –
Choose some object that might represent a symbol of God.  Extend your hands forward with palms up.  Tilt your head up, keeping your eyes fixed on the object.  Before praying, reflect on the following questions. 
·         How do you feel as you kneel in this position?
·         How do you think these feelings might affect how you pray?
Read Matthew 16:24-26:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
·         What do you have to offer God that you are currently holding back?
·         In giving your whole self over to God, what does God offer you?
Pray: Lord God, we give and receive from you.  Help our desires to decrease so that your will and life through us might increase.  Amen.

Prayer Posture Two –
This is a position of submission.  For this position you will need to get on your knees and lean forward.  Place your forehead on the floor (or as close to it as possible, depending on your flexibility) and stretch your arms out in front of you.  If this position is too uncomfortable for you to maintain for the next few minutes, then you may alternatively lie face-down on the floor.  Turn your body so that you are pointing to an object that reminds you of God.  Reflect on the following questions.
·         How do you feel as you kneel/lie in this position?
·         How do you think these feelings might affect how you pray?
Read James 4:6-10:
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[a]  7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
·         What does it mean for you to submit to God?
·         What, in your life, is more important than God?
Pray: Loving Lord, we lie here exposed and humble before you.  Take our humility and build something new in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
Prayer Posture Three -
This is a posture of rest.  Lie on your back and place your arms by your sides or fold your hands across your torso and relax.
·         How do you feel?
·         How will these feelings affect the way you pray?
Read Deuteronomy 5:14-15
14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
The Lord does not demand that we work for God’s kingdom without resting.  Keeping a sabbath, or resting, keeps us close to God. 
·         Where, in your life, do you need rest?
Pray: God of rest and calm, you created the Sabbath for us.  Help us to remember the importance of rest.  We ask that we might rest in your loving arms.  Amen.

These prayer postures represent our journey with God.  First, we receive God’s gifts.  Then we submit our lives to the God who makes our paths straight.  Lastly, we rest in the presence of God.

Pay attention to your body as you continue to pray throughout Lent.  Try out different ways of positioning your body.  If you feel like your relationship with God is out of balance – try standing on one foot with you pray.  If you feel like you need God to take your somewhere new, pray while jogging, walking or riding a bike.  Use your whole body as you pray.