Call today ~ 1-800- SET ASIDE 3/12/19

“1-800 Set Aside” 
March9, 2019

The Christian church begins its observance of Lent contemplating Jesus’ forty day in the wilderness. Jesus, full of the Spirit, returned from the Jordan after being baptized

It seems to me that Jesus was pretty psyched…newly baptized, the sky opens and the voice of God says “this is my beloved Son…”

Consider for a moment, that an enthused and excited Jesus didn’t board a bus and begin the Beloved Son Tour” ~ forty cities in forty days.

No – he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days.

Jesus left the distractions of everyday life behind, so in the quiet, in the wilderness, in the stillness, he could meditate and discern his fathers will. He wanted to be in right relationship with God. He wanted to more fully understand what it means to be the son in whom the father is well pleased. More importantly, the question for Jesus was how do I maintain my relationship with the father?

Like Jesus, through our baptism, we too are the beloved sons and daughters in whom God is well pleased. Like Jesus, our prayer needs to be “Lord, in all that we do direct us to fulfilling our purpose and to find our joy in pleasing you.”

Our relationship with God takes on new meaning depending on what’s happening in our lives at any given moment.

 Like Jesus, we too must think about what keeps us from being in right relationship with God.  Why does it change? What does it look like? Why do we need to rethink it and understand it within the ever-changing context of our lives? How does it manage to get so out of whack? What can we do?

We can begin by rethinking our perceptions about ourselves, our neighbors and the world. We can begin to think differently and get past what we think – may or may not be true. We can start by opening ourselves up to new possibilities, and embracing new ways of thinking. That’s why Jesus went off by himself for 40 days and why we’re asked to follow.

The prophet Isaiah proclaims what God’s people look like when they are out of right relationship with him:

Their eyes are blinded,
their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
 and perceive with their hearts

And so, we begin our forty-day journey through Lent, into the wilderness, into the stillness, to hear and discern God’s voice in our lives, to rediscover the truth and to set aside those things that keep us from feeling at one with the Creator. To move beyond all that keeps us from fulfilling our purpose and experiencing the joy that only comes from pleasing God.

Those in recovery programs know well the “Set Aside Prayer” and I can well imagine Jesus saying it as he journeyed into the wilderness. It goes something like this:

God,
Please help me set aside
everything I think I know
about myself, my brokenness,
and others, and especially You;
so I may have an open mind
and a new experience
of all these things.
Please let me see the truth.

The set aside prayer is about believing in new possibilities, even though you can’t see them. I once had an interesting conversation with someone about her experience of faith. She said that no one could have told her what chocolate tasted like before she tried it. Imagine trying to convince someone of the amazing taste of chocolate if all they ever had (and loved) was vanilla. There is no way that you can really articulate that sensorial event. Words are insufficient. One actually has to have the experience; but when you have never tried something, and feel like you are just fine on your side of the fence (vanilla is a perfectly enjoyable taste) you can talk yourself right out of anything foreign and new. And then you never really know what you are missing. This prayer opens the door.

Not knowing what’s on the other side of the door can be a scary and a little disconcerting, but so can being stuck.

We may find ourselves having to push the door open, but good things don’t always come easily.

Realistically, we can’t hope to set aside all our beliefs about everything and everyone all at once or in 40 days. We’re human and it’s probably best to go slowly and focus on a few things that will open us up to new ways of thinking about our relationships with God, our neighbor and ourselves.

In a few minutes, as a community we’ll offer our prayerful intercessions as we recite the prayers of the people. Often, I muse upon a set of intersessions based on the gospel reading for the week to help me question the status of my relationship with God. However, remember that your inspiration, what you need to rethink and reconsider are personal to your experience and to your relationship with God. Ask yourselves, is he well pleased with me?

I share with you now in the spirit of the set aside prayer a few examples and how by rethinking the obvious, rethinking those things we take for granted and by asking ourselves hard questions, we can open doors that may have been closed and return to fulfilling our purpose and to find our joy in pleasing God.” As an example, let’s consider rethinking the intersessions we pray as a community.

Bless the Earth that it may give food for our needs…prosper the work of those who produce and distribute food…bring relief to those who live in barren places and struggle for existence.

Setting aside everything I think I know:

How do I take food for granted? Does it appear in my neighborhood market by magic? Do I ever wonder about those who plant, care for and harvest my food? Who are these people, where do they come from – do they like me?  Are they treated fairly? Could I do their job? When was the last time I thought about those who can’t grow food, can’t feed themselves and their children?

Bless our families and friends with stability in our homes and sufficiency for our needs. Keep us in harmony with our neighbors and those with whom we work, making us free from all that seems to divide us.

Setting aside everything I think I know:

What does my family need that I’m not providing? What can I be more honest about with those I love? What can we do together to enhance our well-being? Do I really know what’s going on with my fellow workers and my neighbors? How can I be there for them and genuinely support them? What behaviors do I have that separate or divide me from others?

We pray for those whose lives are austere not by choice, but by misfortune. For those who have no comforts to renounce because they struggle to survive.

Setting aside everything I think I know:

How aware am I of those less fortunate? Do I think about whole nations that are living with famine, violence, disease and warfare…what am I doing to ease their suffering?  

Am I aware that since August, in the North East Democratic Republic of the Congo, that there have been 907 reported cases of Ebola and 569 deaths with no end in sight? Do I remember that they too are the body of Christ? I got my flu shot, what’s that they ask?

In our families and in all our lives, grant us the spirit of true forgiveness and reconciliation. Correct us when we go astray, and help us to live in love and harmony with all.

Setting aside everything I think I know:

Is saying I’m sorry really enough? Who is waiting for forgiveness from me? After forgiveness – what then? How do I know that God has forgiven me when I’ve gone astray? Am I worthy of God’s forgiveness? Do I have it in me to live in peace and harmony?

During this season of brokenness and recovery, I encourage you to set aside what you think you know about yourselves and others. I encourage you to open your minds and hearts to new experiences and new ways of thinking about how you navigate life and your relationship with God.  Ask yourselves, what would it look like to experience truth from God’s point of view? How do I feel when I’m in right relationship with God? Is your joy coming from pleasing God? Can I hear the still small voice of God calling me by name and saying “I am well pleased.”

As you navigate through lent and journey towards Easter, remember that Resurrection is about new life, but why wait to experience what you can have today.

Just pick up your phones and call today 1-800- SET ASIDE

Please God help me to set aside everything I think I know
about myself, my brokenness,
and others, and especially You;
so I may have an open mind
and a new experience
of all these things.
Please let me see the truth and experience new life in you.

.

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