Since hopefully during these days of Lent -------we all want to make a commitment to use prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to get rid our rats and get back on the right track of turning away from evil and doing good—of seeking after peace and pursuing it – we might all benefit from this story:
A young man went to see an older, wiser man for advice on being a good person – because it was something he truly desired.
The older, wiser man said to him: “to be a good person, you need to learn how to make better decisions.”
“And how do I learn how to make better decisions?” the younger man asked.
“Well,” the older man said, “to make better decisions you need to get more experience.”
“And how do I get more experience?”
“Well,” the older man said, “to get more experience, you need to make more BAD decisions.”
It’s tempting to wait until everything is perfect before making a decision and taking action, but that’s not how life works and that’s not how we grow.
The reality is that making choices and doing anything of importance is a risk. We may do the wrong thing, we may make a mistake and others may give us a hard time about it.
But the consequences of making a bad decision with good motives is rarely as damaging as making no decision and doing nothing.
So, if you want to be a better person by making better decisions – just make decisions.
Do something. . . anything!
Take action, make mistakes --- and learn from them.
In time, all of us can become more intuitive and wiser about the best course of action for our lives.
And that’s wisdom we don’t get from sitting around doing nothing.
So yes, as we heard last week – God gave his guidance and direction to the Israelites –
You shall not have other gods besides me.
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.
You shall not kill, steal or lie.
And the Israelites tried their best to keep those promises – and sometimes they were successful – but many times they failed: “in those days, all the people added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations. . .”
But God did not give up on them: “Early and often did the Lord, the God of their ancestors send his messengers, his prophets, to them, for he had compassion on his people.”
And so after a time of enslavement and suffering in Babylon, some say this exile lasted up to 70 years –
the Israelites return to their homeland – and started over:
They rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem which had been burnt and torn down.
The priests Ezra and Nehemiah read aloud to the people from God’s word – and all the people re-consecrated themselves to the Lord.
The Israelites had fallen – but they had gotten back up -------- only, in time, to fall again – a pattern that repeated itself throughout the Old Testament.
But every time they failed – they gained experience from their mistakes, became a little firmer in their convictions, listened a little more attentively to the messengers, the prophets, which the lord sent them early and often.
God never gave up on them – and God will not give up on us --- God just wants us to keep on trying!
Never giving up on God, never giving up on ourselves, and never giving up on each other.
There’s a Japanese proverb that says: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
And Confucius once said: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in raising after every fall.”
So we get a splash of color today on this Laetare Sunday with the Rose Color Vestment – a splash of color to remind us we are more than half-way through our Lenten journey. . .
And human nature being what it is – some of us still may not have gotten into the Spirit of Lent yet – and that’s okay --- because it is never too late to start.
And some of us who have started, may have stumbled and fallen in keeping our Lenten promises – and that’s okay too --- as long as we learn to make better decisions through the experience our bad decisions have brought us. As long as we get back up after we have fallen.
One thing to remember in all of this – our Lenten journey as well as our life journey --- is that we don’t have to do this alone:
“God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love God has for is, even when we were dead in our transgressions – brought us to life with Christ – by GRACE, this great gift from God --- we have been saved.”
So that goal of ours that we should all have as Christians – to walk in the light of Christ so as to be more like Him: hold on to it.
Work on it.
Constantly remind yourself of it.
Sit down quietly and ponder it.
Never give up on it.
We have that goal for a reason ---
And IF, but more accurately, WHEN we fall – we just have to make the commitment to get ourselves up, dust ourselves off – and start all over again: walking in the grace of God.
Moments in time...