Lent is a season of self-reflection. A season of contemplation. It is the Henri Nouwen and Parker Palmer kind of stuff where we examine our hearts and our souls. John Wesley would ask, “How is it with your soul?” Lent is the time when we reflect on that question. We make conscious decisions to move away from the old life and embrace a new life.
Here in Romans 8, Paul discusses living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. There have been many words spoken and written about what Paul means by the “flesh.” Biblical scholar David Bartlett puts it simply, “Life in the flesh is the life of bondage to sin.” Where, on the other hand, life in the Spirit is “to belong to God in Jesus Christ.”
How are you living your life? In the flesh, bonded by sin? Or in the Spirit, belonging to God?
When Jesus shouts for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, he is calling for Lazarus to come unbound and be set free. When we live in the Spirit, we are living in freedom. But when we are living by the flesh, we are bound in grave clothes and limited to the dark walls of a tomb.
I invite you today to reflect on how you are bound. Ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” Open yourselves to God who calls forth life.
This week I’ve stumbled upon some well written blogs by young people pondering faith in their life. Some are searching for purpose in the midst of it all. Others are ready to give up and turn away from this God figure and this thing called faith. One is bravely stepping out onto the bridge of doubt, asking questions about what he believes and why. Another honestly shares about her eating disorder and how Sundays are the hardest days of the week.
It is hard, at times, to acknowledge that God has a purpose for you. Buried deep inside each of us, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, is a treasure. This treasure was placed in us by God. What I hear in the blog posts I found this week are voices trying hard to find the treasure within. They are rejecting conformity, which is what the Bible says to do (see Romans 12:2). Yet, they too often do not find or feel support of that from their communities of faith. Which saddens me deeply, for these communities are not fulfilling their purpose of discipleship.
I’m not going to sit here and be one of those Christian guys who tells you that life is going to be perfect if we just accept that God has a purpose for us. Yes, God has a purpose for you. But what is it? What isn’t the right question to ask. I think the better question is, “How do we know what it is?” Discerning, or figuring out, what God’s purpose for us is is not easy. It’s hard! It’s challenging! And sometimes, it’s not fun. In the midst of all of the promises Jesus made, there is one he did not make. He never promised that this thing called being a disciple – being a Jesus follower – would be easy.
So, how do we discern what God’s purpose for us is? In a word: prayer. As we spend time with God through spiritual disciplines or practices like daily devotions, journaling, mediation, and prayer, we begin to discern God’s purpose for us.
When I was a teenager it pissed me off when adults would say that we were the church of the future, like it was some attraction at Walt Disney World. It bugs me still when adults say that about teenagers and young people. You are not the church of the future, you are the church of right now. And I believe strongly that not only does God have a purpose for you, but God has a purpose for you in a community of faith. Partipicate in worship leadership. Lead a service project. Serve on a committee. The church needs you. I’ve been to a lot of church meetings, believe me when I say it, the church needs you.
As teenagers and young people, you have a voice that the Church needs to hear. You have a voice and insight that will make the church stronger and more faithful. To those young bloggers I’ve read this week, God has a purpose for you and it easily may be what you are doing now. So I thank you for your voices. Thank you for being brave enough to share where you are and how the church is or is not apart of that. We need to to hear it. We need to have our eyes opened to the world around us. We need you.