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Training that will Save the World
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. We are invited to face our mortality and to look death in the eyes. We receive ashes on our foreheads: Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Not something I am generally eager to do. But the liturgy reminds me that I am sinful and broken, unable to truly live as God intends me to live, unless I am dying and living in Christ.
It’s nice to remember that God forms us from dust into something beautiful. The Psalmist sings to God: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14), and Paul says to the Ephesians, “We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things” (2:10 CEB). The Greek word, poiema, translated accomplishment, also gives us the English words poetry and poem. I am God’s poem—God’s work of art.
But my life isn’t always wonderful or poetic. Too often it’s a big disappointment. The season of Lent, which comes with an invitation to observe spiritual disciplines, reminds me that transformation is possible. The disciplines are both inward and outward—for the individual and for the group—and when we practice them, life will not be the same.
John Ortberg asserts, “The primary goal of spiritual life is human transformation. It is not making sure people know where they’re going after they die, or helping them have a richer interior life, or seeing that they have lots of information about the Bible, although these can be good things. The first goal of spiritual life is the reclamation of the human race” (from The Life You’ve Always Wanted: The Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People).
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). So God believes the world is worth saving—that I’m worth saving. Jesus told his followers, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). If you and I are to be the living Body of Christ, then Jesus’ mission is our mission: FUMC exists for the redemption of the world. That’s a tall order, and we won’t become God’s ‘accomplishment’ by merely trying to be good or trying to save the world. We have to train for it.
I have learned that without training, it’s impossible to finish a marathon. I can’t sign up for a race one day and then go run it the next day. To run 26.2 miles requires months of preparation and training. The same applies for living my life with you as the Body of Christ.
A spiritual discipline is a spiritual practice—a training exercise for our journey together. This devotional book and our Sunday worship themes will focus on the classic disciplines of fasting, solitude, meditation, simplicity, study and celebration. Jesus and his followers did these things. When Paul and Silas entered the city of Thessalonica, the accusation leveled against them by an angry mob was, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6).
We are training to be God’s handiwork, God’s poetry, both inside and out—to turn the world upside down, so we can all be right side up.
I’m excited that we’re in this together!