Likewise, by the grace of God our egoism is destroyed and we are freed to live in sweet surrender. We need no longer flap our wings against the wind; we merely float on the clear air of the great atmosphere of God’s Spirit.
Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent are about dying to the self/ego by God’s grace, and rising to the life that really is life.
As it says in the Holy Bible:
“Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.” – (Luke 17:33)
“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” – (1 Timothy 6:18-19)
In other words, when we come to realize through the grace of God that we are in God and God is in us, then we are freed to let go and “lose” our egoistic life and “take hold of the life that really is life.” In fact, I came up with a rhyme a few years ago to teach this truth of God in order to promote this Christ-like ‘death to self’ and ‘letting go’ that the Holy Scriptures declare. This little rhyme is the following:
God is in you
God is in me
We are in God
So, while God is beyond all of creation, this rhyme simply means that all of creation is in God and God is in all of creation — including you and me. The biblical theologian and author Marcus Borg uses the metaphor of a fish in the ocean to describe this reality. Just as the ocean surrounds and permeates the fish, so God also surrounds and pervades all creation (including you and me), but God is also beyond all things.
Yes, we are all in God and God is in all of us. Consequently, the goal of our religious faith and spirituality is not to get God into us or to get God into others. Rather, the goal of our spiritual life is to let go of our egotism through the grace and power of God and live in joyful communion with God who is already within us, and within all that is (both seen and unseen).
This is what the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are all about. The sacraments of Baptism and Communion are sacred practices where God’s all-inclusive truth, all-pervading grace and all-encompassing love are displayed in a focused and communal way.
So, while evangelism for misguided people is all about getting God into people, true evangelism is simply about connecting people to the Eternal God who is within them and all creation already. God already was, is, and always shall be in all people, and all people are forever in God — but not everyone is aware of, abiding in and enjoying this wonderful, liberating and life-changing reality.
Furthermore, all of life is sacramental. Baptism and Communion are sacramental for sure, but also a swim in the river, a meal at the homeless shelter, a hug, a smile, a kind word, or a song that is sung in community. In fact, one of the things I love about the Lutheran tradition is the great value placed upon singing hymns, Psalms and songs in community.
Yes, when we sing songs of praise and adoration to God, this is also a sacramental experience that brings at-one-ment with God. As we remember the infinite God of all by focusing on the various names, attributes and qualities of God in song, we find that our egoism, selfishness, greed, fear, hatred and wantfulness melt away from us into at-one-ment with God.
As we move into the liturgical Season of Lent (meaning “length”) when the days lengthen and become warmer, may we be ever mindful of the sacramental presence of God in all things — the Eternal God in the eternal now. Let us not say, “Someday when I stand before the throne of God,” because we stand before the amazing throne of the wonderful Lord God each and every moment of every single day. The earth and sky, the snow and rain, the trees and rocks, the grass and flowers, the rivers and lakes, the birds and fish, our own hearts and souls, are altogether the amazing throne of God.
Enlightened and empowered by this truth and grace, may we respond to God by living daily God-conscious lives that are engaged in meeting the needs of the hurting world around us. Rather than disengaging from the world, God calls us to actively engage in the world with compassionate solutions:
- As children and families are in need of stability, let us commit ourselves to promoting parenting that is loving and affectionate but balanced by healthy discipline practices.
- As religious faith and spirituality are being co-opted by the false gospel of materialistic prosperity, consumerism and various marketing strategies, let us live lives of simplicity, generosity, hospitality and integrity.
- As religious extremism and fanaticism threaten the quality and sustainability of human civilization, let us engage the world with the benefits of compassionate religion and the benefits of inter-faith dialogue and cooperation.
- As over-population causes increased poverty, starvation and suffering in our world, let us engage the world with the benefits of contraception, family planning and equal rights for women.
- As environmental pollution threatens the quality and sustainability of human society, let us engage the world with the benefits of clean, renewable sources of energy, and with the benefits of biodegradable products.
- As ignorance threatens the quality and sustainability of humanity, let us support universal education and academic freedom everywhere.
- As freedom of association is essential for humanity, let us promote societies of liberty, equality and fraternity throughout the world.
We stand before the throne of God Most High right now — forever here and now, and beyond. So, for this Lenten Season and for the rest of our God-given life, let us engage in the world and embrace our oneness together in God, by whose grace we all “live, move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).
Together in Christ, Pastor Tim