First Sunday in Lent
February 17, 2013
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
At Yesterday’s Bishop Committee retreat, our master chef, Bill Boone and his wife Rhonda served us a sumptuous lunch and with all the sweet desserts. I say, when you are fed well, retreats will be successful.
But let me declare now, let fasting begin!! You may say, “What? I thought we started that on Ash Wednesday?” Well, we made a decision that we will extend it until this Sunday where we still get to give our love ones more sweet candies to eat for the last time before we enter into the 40 days and 40 nights fasting. We made a decision to even extend it more for another day to celebrate the Chinese New Year with a Banquet of meat and meat and carbs. The Shrove Tuesday wasn’t enough! We have asked God to be more understanding and forgiving to extend it for another day. Now we are resolved to really begin to observe the season of Fasting. But it is no longer 40 days and 40 nights minus the four days after Ash Wednesday which also excludes the 6 Sundays in Lent. But are we really serious about fasting? Is it really so hard to be on vacation from Adobo and beef and sacrifice our love of sweets just for this season of Lent? Are we finding it hard to pause for a moment for a prayer or just simply stopping by the street to offer a homeless the other half of your food or a bottle of water? Decisions are tough to make every time.
We make decisions every day. What time to wake up, what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, where to go, what to do, how much time you spend putting your make up, and these are all before we leave the house for the day. Decisions can be simple, but they can be complicated, tough, and uncertain.
You may have said to yourself to go to the mall just to have a glimpse of what you call, “Window shopping” and promised just like that. But you couldn’t resist to buy that lovely dress and you easily gave your credit card as the customer service swiped it against the card reader and gave you your receipt before you will change your mind. That dress that you bought will only be used two months from now and when that time comes, it doesn’t fit you or that it already out class or hindi na uso. So it is added to your squeezed pile of clothes.
There’s a similar story of a woman who had bought a new dress which was very expensive. Her husband asked why she had been so extravagant. She replied, “The Devil made me do it.” “Well,” the husband asked, “Why didn’t you say ‘Get behind me Satan!’” “I did,” explained the wife, “But he said it looked as good in back as it did in front.” So I bought it.”
We make decisions every day, but when we face tough decisions, how do we make them? What comes into play?
Sometimes we don’t want to make a decision, but are forced into action. We might find ourselves suffering and in pain. We might be asked to sacrifice something that we might not want to give up. What does God tell us about this?
We are given free will as a gift from God. Some may see it as a curse, but it may also be seen as an opportunity to listen and to be guided by God in our daily lives. Like in the garden of Eden with the serpent, we are given ample opportunity to eat the fruit that God warns us about. If we eat it we shall die. No pressure!
Sometimes we eat the fruit and must bear the consequences. Maybe one consequence is that we realize we’re naked. Yet God is with us when we make bad choices and when we make what we think is the right choice. Our decisions are opportunities, maybe to do the right thing and maybe we don’t know what is right.
What are tough decisions for you? How do you ask God to guide you? What signs do you seek to find the answer?
What lies in that open space between you and the moment of decision? Is it faith? Is it hopeful anticipation? Self-doubt? Pessimism and angst?
I made a decision for myself today to be moderate on what I take in to my mouth as well as what I say. I know that decisions and choices may go hand in hand. I need to decide if I will take care of my health now before it gets worst or will I procrastinate and continue doing my unhealthy habits and might not see my grand kids grow? I made a choice to be moderate on foods that are sweets and avoid salty and fatty foods that are not good for the heart. I know this may not always apply to everybody especially to those who may need what I don’t . When I tell myself to drink more water, it may not be alright for other people who have problems with kidney and circulations. When I tell myself to avoid carbs and sweets, others may need it. All we need then is a good knowledge about what we are embarking ourselves into in order to make wise decisions. I am resolved to walk the journey in Lent in moderation with every food that I take and being mindful to the needs of others.
When we started our health and ministry program, it didn’t happen sporadically but prayerfully , deliberately, with good intentions to help others understand in making their Heath decisions.
When we engaged ourselves to feed the people in the streets of San Francisco, we thought about the waste of foods that go in the garbage every time we have meals and reflect upon those in the world who have nothing for a week or months.
When we made a decision to get up this morning to come to church even if it is cold , and to let go of our blankets is the last thing we should ever do, we thought about giving thanks to God that we are still alive and that he has a purpose for us all to do.
It is hard to believe that people only remember God mostly when he is needed. We remember God when there’s a death, on wedding or baptism. Or when we lost our jobs or our house.
When at school, you flanked the test, you made a decision before that made you failed it. Then and only then that you realized you have to change your habits.
Lent is not totally about fasting but also being mindful of the needs of the body and those people around us who may not be able to have what we are enjoying and wasting. It is being mindful of the world we live in and those who live on it. Lent is a time to search our hearts and souls where we want to be and what we want to become. It is a time to prepare ourselves to journey with life and all there is before us, ever remembering that Our Lord will carry us through those rough and rugged roads in life until finally we will experience the wonderful gift of the Resurrection in Easter.
Within a year, we need to retreat from busyness of life and all the temptations therein and just simply be with God and meditate upon the words of Jesus Christ. It all leads us to Easter where we will be able to say, yes I made it through Christ who strengthens me.
Do you believe we can do it through Christ gives us strength? Let us all say, “I can do it through Christ who gives me strength .” Amen