Updated: Oct 5, 2021
March 6, 2019
ECC Attleboro, MA
Below is the manuscript for this video:
“Lent is a time to re-focus and to re-enter a place of truth. It is here where we find our true identity.” – Henri Nouwen
In our Adult Sunday School class, we are reviewing the book The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner, and diving into why it’s so important to find our true identity. Here’s a spoiler alert… True identity is always a gift from God and there can be no true life apart from our relationship with God.
Are we as Christians taking our gift of being able to have this relationship with God for granted? I think sometimes we get stuck in the lows of life, the tragedies, the sadness and so much fear, that we can stall into an awkward comfort zone of discomfort. But this is not what God wants for us. He wants us to have a transformational journey that helps us gain a better understanding of who it is that He created, and in turn we also get to know more about who He is. The Gift of Being Yourself is of value to God, it is an invitation to move from simply hearing stories of who He is, to personally knowing Him and ourselves.
The weekend before Ash Wednesday a couple years ago, I had a moment where I completely surrendered myself to God. It was the first time I fell to my knees in utter and sincere sorrow but also in complete awe of how good and wonderful He truly is. When Ash Wednesday came something transformed within me, and I suddenly saw Jesus as my best friend that died for me, and not just a story that I had heard many times throughout my life. After I received the ashes, God revealed Himself to me in a personal way. And since then, I have responded with a continuous and fervent YES to Him. It was then I felt the words of the apostle Peter deep in my soul: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I love the saying: “The best apology is changed behavior.” That’s what God is asking from us in order to have this transformational knowing of who He is. But how can we get there? I’ve found that this continual transformation process is in the cycle of Reflect – Reveal – Respond.
Reflect – Read God’s Word, pray, meditate, fast, sincerely apologize.
The Psalmist had it write when he said: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”
Reveal – Read God’s Word -The Bible reveals God’s love for us, His promises to us, His expectations and His desires for us. The Bible reveals God’s plan for us, His definitions of sin, and warns us against the consequences of our disobedience. It reveals who we are in Him.
Listen to the Holy Spirit -In John, Jesus says of the Holy Spirit that “You [will] know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.”
God often uses other people and situations to reveal himself to us. When we are praying and mediating, these gifts of people along our journey will be more and more known to us.
Respond – Give alms, Let it be love that inspires us to do great things. Sometimes great things are simple, humble acts of kindness and service. As Jesus warns us in Matthew: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Continue to pray & surrender. Remember, we are on a transformational journey that never ends until our last day. And finally, here’s the kicker… Fully let God love us. When we give up things for lent, we do it to increase our awareness of God’s love for us and our ability and desire to love Him and others as He loves us. This lent, let us pray that we can truly, fully let God love us.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal. It causes us to pause and look at our lives– remember what we are made of, remember where we are going- and encourages us to fully immerse ourselves in the next 40 days of reflection of who we are and Whose we are.
You have come in the struggle of your lives
to acknowledge Jesus and his life and death.
While you wear the symbol of all death on your foreheads,
know in your hearts that this is not all there is.
Remembering that “you are dust and to dust you shall return” is the stuff of our earthly lives.
The heart of the matter is our faith in the God within us,
the fire of Christ’s love in our life and work,
and that “Jesus Christ will raise you up on the last day.”
Go in peace and hope, and gather your true purpose about you!