Easter is around the corner ... ready?
What does Easter mean to you? Hmmm... think.
Yesterday I saw an advertisement that was rather offensive and made me want to urp: a well- known big box store ran a showy ad promising ‘all the coolest toys and treats to make Easter special...‛ That‛s when I thought, ‘wait a second, I guess I missed something... when did Easter become so commercialized? ‛ When did the stripping of Christianity‛s second most important day take place, whilst we just watched?
Several years ago, my family was in London, (mostly for English Premier soccer), and attended an awe-inspiring Easter service at Westminster Abbey. But outside and around town, in the popular media, Easter was not even mentioned. Instead, there was talk about it being a bank holiday, one of many public holidays spread throughout the year that recognize special events of various kinds. Wait a second--the resurrection of our Lord, the pinnacle of history, was lumped in with special events of various kinds?
Yes. The celebration of the resurrection of our Lord just gone.
Not on my watch.
Friends, many of us are observing a Lenten practice of preparing our hearts for Easter, which is good. Ha, hopefully not in a silly, obligatory manner of schoolchildren who ‘give up‛ something they would not really miss anyway ... like spinach. The idea of Lenten preparation is for extended times of prayer, fasting and personal examination in the vein of David‛s soul searching ~ “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”1
In our chapter-by-chapter examination of the scripture, we left off in John’s gospel in November, poised to take up our position again in the weeks before Jesus' resurrection. Here. We. Are. In John 15, the disciple whom Jesus loved wrote about abiding in Jesus Christ, learning to practice his presence, walk in his love as a matter of course in our daily lives. How I thank God for his unfathomable love, for his desire to know us and be known by us! The God of the Universe wants to KNOW and BE KNOWN by you and me. Oh yeah, and he loves us. Goodness.
So regarding some personal soul searching, wanted to remind us of something called ‘Spiritual Breathing’. The basic idea is that you live with a moment by moment awareness of the Holy Spirit, and walking in the Spirit becomes as natural, as habitual, as breathing. It’s just part of who you are. Here’s how it works: the moment you become aware of stress in your life, you EXHALE. When you exhale, you breathe out and repent of any sin. So, the moment you are prideful, jealous, lustful, harsh, selfish, impatient or ______, you EXHALE and repent of your sin.2 Repentance becomes a natural response and clears out space in our hearts for the Spirit to fill us. [The whole discussion of sin is an interesting one—I have had folks tell me that they do not sin--true story. But sin is not just the ‘big’ things that come to mind, it is our preoccupation with self ... thinking more oft of ourselves and how we feel... thinking we know better, even as Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God, so thought to partake of the one and only thing in Paradise that he withheld, Genesis 3.)
The only way there is room for me to be filled with the Spirit is if I first empty myself of me. When I empty me of me, there is space for the Holy Spirit to fill me... hmmmm.
And then you INHALE. When you INHALE, you breathe in and pray to be filled with the Spirit, and you surrender control over to him. As you practice spiritual breathing, it teaches you to keep in step with the Spirit. Make‘ spiritual breathing’ part of who you are; for if you do, you will truly know what it is to abide in him. In addition, you will follow Paul’s mandate to “take every thought captive”3, rather than letting the world around you mold the patterns of your heart and mind.
I pray that you will be filled to overflowing with the Spirit,
daily practicing the presence of God,
readying your heart for the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice and his triumph over the grave, our greatest gain.
Until the morrow, may the grace of our Lord surround each of you,
may the peace of our Lord Jesus reign in your heart.
1 – Psalm 139.23-24
2 - Not a Fan – becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus, Kyle Idleman, 2011. 3 - 2 Corinthians 10.5