I want to say thank you to everyone who helped make it possible for Kercida and me to join friends skiing in Colorado just before Valentines. I will warn you that my children have told me that I look at everything theologically and see sermon illustrations in random places and at awkward times. So it should come as no surprise that as I was riding up the chair lift, watching the people ski down the hill underneath me, I began to wonder about the church. I noticed some of the skiers seemed to be working hard to learn, others with a look of terror (or determination) emanating from every bone, but most seemed to be casually cruising downhill with little struggle. It reminded me of congregations I know.
I had taken a lesson last year and the instructor told me that he could tell the year people learned to ski because they never really changed or learned to deepen their relationship with the snow (My words, not his.) Most people sought to overpower or defeat the mountain rather than letting the mountain help. I wonder if I do the same thing with God and the Church. Am I still working at being a Christian and living as Jesus said I should or am I comfortable cruising through life believing I am in control?
The changes my ski instructor gave me were small changes but they seemed to be very counter intuitive. Most of the time I could convince myself I was practicing these new skills he had taught me or that they were really not that different from what I had been doing. Anytime I felt I needed more control, my old way of skiing seemed to work just fine. That was true until there was about six inches of new snow one morning and a friend had scheduled a group lesson for all of us. The instructor was taking me places I probably would not have gone on my own. I prefer to stay on the well-groomed and familiar paths. I found that my old way of skiing did not work well in powder. I was going to wear myself out. I was fighting at every turn. His way worked. I had more control and was not as tired. I was not fighting the snow.
Lent is a time to ask ourselves, am I still learning about God? Am I living the way Jesus says I should live? Do I believe God truly knows what is best for me and do I trust the instruction that Jesus is giving me? Prayer is a primary skill that our instructor, Jesus, gives us to practice so we can become who God intends us to be. For some, prayer can be terrifying, overcome only be sheer determination. Others may be very comfortable and see no need to improve, while others seem to find great benefit in improving their ability to pray.
Prayer is the single most important tool in learning how to live more like God wants us to live. Studying scripture and Biblical history can be helpful but without prayer it can become self-affirming. Christian action becomes well-meaning activity and is beneficial but without prayer it can become legalistic. Attending worship or serving in the church can become a duty or when we are comfortable being off the groomed areas of our lives.
The second Sunday in Lent we are going to discover how through prayer and listening carefully to what Jesus has to say to us, we can move from trusting in our ability to power through situations to trusting that God really does want what is best for each of us. We will hear how prayer, asking and listening to God, can bring us to a new relationship with God. Some of the things God asks of us are counter intuitive; we may have to un-learn a few things we learned early in our relationship with God that served us well when we first started and were operating out of sheer terror or determination.
See you Sunday,