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Thank, Pray, Love

February 20, 2016

Many families have a member who gets everyone together for dinner or just to hang out. In our family, it’s Reilly. When two or more people are home he does his best to round us up into the family room or kitchen; he flashes his winsome smile and leads us all into one room. We follow him as if he were the Pied Piper. He is never happier than when we are all together, yet he reacts quickly to protect us at the slightest threat. Reilly is our dog.

Like Reilly, the dog, or like a hen protecting her brood. Jesus wants only to gather us together, to spend time with us and to protect us, but we often reject that offer (“but you were not willing!” Luke 13:34b, NIV). In this week’s gospel text, Jesus reminds us that Jerusalem had a “history of rejecting God’s prophets . . . and it would reject the Messiah just as it had rejected its forerunners.”[1] (Note, Life Application Bible, NIV, p. 1834).  Like Jesus, Jeremiah was threatened with death for speaking the truth (Luke 13: 31, Jeremiah 26:8). And like Jesus, Jeremiah continued telling the truth, despite the risk to his personal safety: “If you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to speak all these words in your ears.” (Jeremiah 26:15).

It saddened Paul, as it saddened Jesus, that many reject the comfort, protection, and refuge of the cross. “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3: 18, NIV).

Jesus wants us to draw near to him so that we can learn his ways, comfort others and be comforted. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis tells us that “God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you into one. I daresay this idea of a divine make-believe sounds rather strange at first, but is it so strange really? Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teaches her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’; that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end.” (Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperCollins, 1952, p. 193). He emphasizes this point a few pages later: “[T]he church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.” (p. 199).

Paul points out that as he focused his life on imitating Christ, so should we, by following Paul’s example: “Keep on imitating me, my friends.” (Philippians 3:17, Good News Translation). Others have encouraged Christians to draw closer to Jesus to become more Christlike. In the 15th century, Thomas a Kempis wrote: “’Anyone who follows me shall not walk in darkness,’ says the Lord. These are the words of Christ, and by them we are reminded that we must imitate his life and ways if we are to be truly enlightened and set free from the darkness of our own hearts. Let it be the most important thing that we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ” (a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Ave Maria Press, 1989, translated by William C. Creasy, p. 30). Similarly, in the 16th Century, Martin Luther encouraged us to “become a Christ to the other. And as we are Christs to one another, the result is that Christ fills us all and we become a truly Christian community.” (Luther, The Freedom of a Christian, Fortress Press, p. 84).

And how do we imitate Christ? Use 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18: as a jumping off point:

Thank: “. . . give thanks in all circumstances;” (v. 18)

Pray: “. . . pray continually . . .”(v. 17)

Love: “[R]espect those who work hard among you . . . Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. . . warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone . . . Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else . . . Be joyful always . . . for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 12-16; 18b).

 Diane Cieslikowski Reagan









[1] The Scriptures for the Second Sunday in Lent are Psalm 4, Jeremiah 26:8-15; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35.

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