[Reflection delivered at the corner of Albany and Hulett Streets in Schenectady on Saturday, July 30th during March Schenectady for Jesus 2022.]

Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

At this stop we pause to address the plague of addiction and violence.

These two things, these two sins, are bound together. God asks us to be in control of our lives and our actions, to hand ourselves over completely to Him and to follow His gospel path. 

However, when we surrender ourselves to addiction, we surrender our self-control. We allow drugs and alcohol, addiction to food, sexual behaviors and pornography, and gambling to rule and run our lives. Time for family – none. Time for work – none. Savings – none. Church – forget it. The less and less control we have the less time we have for God’s way, and in His place we revel in destruction.

When we surrender ourselves to addiction, you know what comes behind it – yes violence. Place oneself under Satan’s guidance, and under the influence of that addiction, and one will engage in behaviors they wouldn’t if they were sober and right minded. 

Violent behaviors and addiction go hand-in-hand because anyone in your way is in the way. That includes God. I need to get my fix and my high – get out of my way or I’ll get you out of my way. Nothing can stop me. Lack of money – rob it. Someone trying to help me, attack them. That girl won’t give in – rape her. God trying to turn me back, to turn me around – deny Him and hate Him. Reject His Church.

Addiction fuels that pent up rage in us. Gasoline on the fire. In the end the addicted and the violent will stand there alone, shattered bodies and spirits in the wake. Satan laughing. His promises were meaningless.

Think that addiction isn’t being expressed outwardly in some form of violence? These are the other, more subtle forms of violence addiction fuels, things like: Blackmail, Physical threats, Gaslighting, Attacking another’s self-worth, Intimidation, Stalking, Name-calling, Withholding resources and necessities, Excluding a person from meaningful events or activities, Blaming the victim.

Is this in you? It is time to turn now. Immediately, right now. Go to one of the pastors here. Seek help. Call 988. Get help.

God asks for our surrender, the surrender of the whole self. No holding back and no backsliding. Now is the time to throw Satan and his booze, drugs, food, pornography, gambling, and any other addiction away and hand over our lives 100%.

God take me and heal me, mold me as You see fit. Amen.

Working to change.

As they were coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Lent calls us to change, to reform. Lenten discipline presupposes that we need reform. We may need reform because we lack an understanding of God’s call, or our religious practice has become just habit, or we are just going through the motions without knowing why, or just maybe, we are comfortable and do not want to change or reform.

Throughout our shared Lenten journey, we are studying the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. This study will help us to reset our lives, right set our expectations, and get to the change and reform necessary to be ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

Last week we studied the discipline of fasting. We learned that as we fast from what pulls us away from the gospel, we feel Jesus filling that space with new longing to live the gospel as well as His grace power to do so. 

In the coming weeks we will continue with the subjects of prayer, study, and proclamation. Today we focus on giving, also known as sacrifice.

There is no more poignant call and answer to giving than Abraham’s. As the Passover sacrifice of a lamb prefigures Jesus, so Abraham’s offering of his son prefigures God’s giving of His Son Jesus.

Sacrifice is a call and a response. Abraham could have easily said: No, I’m too busy, I don’t feel like it, Your request goes too far, Moriah is too far. Yet, no matter how impossibly difficult it was for Abraham he answered yes, “Here I am!” In Lent we are called to answer yes to sacrifice and giving more than we normally would, to doing the harder things, and to permanently change the way we answer.

In our sacrifice and giving, God recognizes our devotion. As He said to Abraham: I see how devoted you are. God recognized that Abraham did not quit or hold back. Even more, God recognizes the fact that Abraham did not grumble afterward, but rather saw the gifts around him and he gave them to God. Because of that, God promised His abundant blessing in terms of descendants, victory, and that others will find blessing because of Abraham’s giving.

In Jesus dying and rising those gifts are carried forward for us. Because of Jesus’ devotion to His Father’s call and His giving response, we can call ourselves His descendants. We have the only victory that matters, and others find blessing in us. 

Lent calls us to give and sacrifice. Let us respond recognizing that we are doing so from the storehouse of abundant blessings He gives us and as the legacy Jesus left.

Working to change.

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

On Ash Wednesday we heard that Lent calls us to change, to reform. 

Lenten discipline presupposes that we need reform at different levels. Perhaps we need to reform because we lack an understanding of God’s call. Perhaps our religious practice has become habit rather than challenge. Perhaps we are still doing things because mom or dad said so. Maybe, just maybe, we are comfortable and just do not want to change and reform.

Here we are and now is the time to convert, to change and reform. But how do I get there and do it?

Throughout the Lenten journey we are sharing together we will study the means and methods by which we will achieve conversion, change and reform. This study will help us to reset our lives, right set our expectations, and get to the change and reform necessary to be ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

Here is what we will study – the disciplines of the season: fasting, giving (sacrifice), praying, study, and proclamation – and how though these disciplines we come to conversion, change and reform.

Each of the Lenten disciplines are work. If any were easy to us, we need to find a way to make them a challenge. It may not be just in doing more of x, but in doing x in a different way.

Let’s say we love fasting; it is never that hard. Well, let’s fast in a different way, from a thing other than food, from a thing that pulls us away from living the gospel way.

Today we focus on the fast. As the hymn proclaims, these forty days of Lent O Lord, with You we fast (and pray).

Fasting is a means by which we rend (i.e., break) our hearts, tearing them away from the attractions that trap us and hold us back and refocusing our time and attention on Jesus’ gospel path. In fasting we separate ourselves from the things that distract us from the gospel cause.

There is so much that tries to distract us, pull us away from the gospel way. Here is a great question to ask ourselves in relation to our fasting: I would be sitting here reading scripture or praying or doing good works except that I am _______. I would be reading scripture or praying or doing good works far more often if I wasn’t _______. There is our stop doing that.

As we fast from what distracts and pulls us away from the gospel way, we will feel Jesus filling that cleared space with new longing to live the gospel and the power to do so.