Jesus’ death is all about me (part 2)

In Turnov. Taken by Amy Jacober.

In Turnov. Taken by Amy Jacober.

“The life of Christ is just extra, it’s what He did on the cross that really matters.”

Is the life of Jesus really “just extra”? I am going to say a resounding NO! It is particularly fitting to talk about this during Lent. A season in which we consider our own mortality, in which we prepare for the passion season, where the long journey to the cross is the constant backdrop. It is however never the sole destination. Jesus does not remain on the cross. Which, by the way, does not diminish its significance.

In fact, it is in this season that we can read, talk about, have sermons on and focus on the life of Christ. Just what did Jesus do in the time between arriving to a very surprised teen mom and looking her in the eye from the cross? He cared for others, taught, went to parties, worked, spent time with family, left his family to spend time with others, reached out to those rejected by society, spoke harsh words to hypocrites and gentle words to  sinners, fed the hungry, rested, healed the sick made friends, broke gender barriers, broke socioeconomic barriers, broke ethnic barriers, extended hospitality, advocated for those in need, was more concerned about doing good than what people thought of Him, sought economic justice, sought justice, included the poor and the rich. It is in His life that we find life. It is in the very ways in which he taught, both directly and indirectly that we could learn what it means to honor God, to live according to His word. God Himself came not that we should believe rightly but that we could LIVE rightly. I would argue this reveals our beliefs.

So what do I do with a student who thinks that the death of Jesus on the cross is the only thing that matters? I follow the model of Jesus as he addressed and walked alongside others who held tightly to a dominating belief. These are not bad people. They are not the enemy. We get to imitate Christ which means at times being misunderstood, ignored or worse. Sometimes it looks like inviting someone for dinner, other times it looks like pointing out that there is more than they see. We get to learn how to do so because we have His life as a model. His life was not, is not and never will be extra.

In this lenten season, don’t move so quickly from Jesus’ birth to His death and resurrection, take time to notice His life!


Lenten Pick up 1- Kids don’t want to be seen as different

Snapshot 3:6:14 10:20 AM

In the season of lent where the conversation circles around inclusion, around Jesus being included and Jesus including others…there is still a community often missing from youth groups. It is the community of teens and their families impacted by disabilities. What I now hear most often is that a youth pastor doesn’t want to harm or insult someone with a disability. Their response then becomes to ignore that person. I’ve got news for you, that is harmful! Option B seems

to be to point out just how “different” that teen is. And by different, what gets left unsaid is wrong or disruptive. Steve Grcevich addresses this beautifully here Kids don’t want to be seen as different. 

This lenten season, let the eyes of Christ be one of the things you pick up. Just like every other teenager wants to be included, so do those with disabilities.

What if Lent were more about what to pick up than give up?

Today is Ash Wednesday. I sat in my daughter’s preschool service where family and friends were invited to participate with all the children. I loved the way this season was explained. The pastor did speak of sin but in such an age appropriate way. She talked of not being loving to others, to ourselves or to God then let the children articulate what “not being loving” looked like in their worlds. She then invited all the children to take this season not to give up anything. (They are after all in preschool, between being in control of very little and having the attention span of gnats I thought this a wise move). Instead, she invited them to be intentional about showing and telling others about Jesus.

Ash Wednesday marks 40 days of journeying toward Easter. It is a time to prepare our hearts, to reflect, offer thanksgiving and devoting ourselves to worship and service to God in His world. It’s a season to do a little spring cleaning spiritually and uncover, dust off and remember faith that has been laying dormant over the winter.

“From dust you have come, to dust you will return.” This is the phrase said as ashes are placed on our foreheads. It’s not an apocalyptic decree. It’s a statement. A reminder. It’s also a declaration of the fragility of the time in between birth and death. We live with dust all around. The dust of lives burned to the ground. The dust of rubble in a city. The dust created when new construction takes place. The dust that accumulates when we become too busy to pay attention to the corners of our rooms and our lives. It’s there, but it also offers an invitation for transformation. Where there is dust and destruction, there is an opportunity for even the smallest changes to brighten a space. Take a deep breath, slow down, don’t cut someone off on the road, laugh instead of yell when your kid does something annoying, pray, help someone else. Whatever dusting your life off looks like, make it matter in this world. Allow lent to be a time where you pick something up that draws you closer to Christ, that brightens a space allowing others around you to also see Jesus. And while you are at it, look for the ways Jesus breaks in changing you as we all journey toward Easter.

For some people, Ash Wednesday and Lent have “always” been a part of your tradition. For other faithful Christians, this part of the church calendar is new to them. And still others are hearing about it for the first time. Welcome, glad you’re here. We all belong. Glad we are all together.




They viewed me as unclean…whatever

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. All around town I saw ashes silently residing on the foreheads of people around me. Even my own daughter with her beautiful porcelain skin had ashes hiding beneath the messy flop of hair. Typically I reach for wipes to clean various things off her face (yogurt, dirt, marker etc.) This however wasn’t something to be cleaned. It was something to be worn long after she had forgotten it was there. It did however set her apart from others. Smudged, so to speak, with the grittiness of Christ.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about being smudged, dirty, even unclean. This past week my Sunday School class finished our look at a book titled “Unclean” by Richard Beck. I am not sure I could recommend a book more highly. It was encouraging at points, disturbing at others and always thought provoking. It looked at the church through the lens of the psychology of disgust. It forced us to talk about holiness, purity, what Christ modeled and now calls us as the church to be and do. In the conclusion Beck says

“Notions of purity and holiness create judgments regarding pollution, defilement, and contamination. Purity and holiness carve the world into clean and unclean and then direct feelings of revulsion and contempt toward the self or the other, those designated as ‘unclean.'” Once these judgements and boundaries are in place, it is almost impossible to see how the mission of the church can be accomplished.”

The mission of the church is messy, dirty, gritty and often looks anything but pure. I’ve had multiple conversations recently about who is “in” or clean and who is “out” or unclean. I have heard from teens and leaders in church settings that Young Life has treated them as less than worthy and even rejected their presence as they were already connected to a church and therefore not worth their time nor did they fit the mission. I have heard from teens and Young Life leaders that while they long to connect with the church, churches reject them for not looking…well, churchy enough. I sat in a class with adult nursing students this past week who stated that while spirituality is important, they see little to no connection with church for feeling judged and turned off for not being able to be regular attenders due to work schedules or not expressing the correct beliefs in ways that were palatable to those in leadership.

I also had the experience this week of the stark reminder of when I too am treated as unclean and when I return that notion, at least in my own mind if not in my actions. I sat with a group of men discussing atonement at the invitation of a grant from Notre Dame. Three of us hold PhD’s, the other three hold either a Master’s or Bachelor’s from a particularly (shall we say) “rigid” institution. The two male PhD’s were treated with respect, almost reverence from the three other men. I was told that my comments were “a matter of opinion”, “that I didn’t know what I was talking about” and then simply shut out of conversation. It was clear both by their actions that night (and openly my previous encounters with Bible students from this particular school) that women are viewed as lesser and inferior.  I used to be terribly hurt viewing myself as Beck states with “contempt” and “revulsion” wondering how to be acceptable in the eyes of Christians in general and those I respected in particular.  This particular night I was simply tired and felt I no longer have time to waste my efforts on such people. In short, I viewed them as unclean.

As I drove away, I wondered how do we ever get to a place where we can do the work of the church if we in the church cannot even get over our disgust with one another? How do I become a person who is able to cross boundaries in the ways I desire and see Christ doing? How do I take this gritty season of lent and realize that perhaps we need to figure out how to view all as Christ does previously unclean, washed white as snow.