Lent: A Season of Spiritual Listening
Do you know that some movies are made with alternative endings? For example, Will Smith's "I am Legend," has an alternative ending, which you can find it on YouTube. I don't quite understand why they would spend a lot of money and time to shoot an alternative ending, and why they didn't decide when they finalize the script. Some alternative endings are a stark contrast to each other.
Jesus' life on earth had an alternative ending. The scene of the Transfiguration is one possible ending. It was an ideal ending or a preferred ending. However, the actual ending, as we know it, was the crucifixion.
Let's compare these two endings of Jesus' mission on earth: the preferred ending and the actual ending.
In the preferred ending, Jesus appeared on a mountain, but in the actual ending, Jesus was on the cross.
In the preferred ending, Jesus was accompanied by two saints—Moses and Elijah, but in the actual ending, Jesus was accompanied by two thieves. What a contrast?
In the preferred ending, Jesus took people to the place, but in the actual ending, Jesus was taken to the place carrying his cross.
In the preferred ending, the scene was bright, but in the actual ending, the scene was dark.
In the preferred ending, Jesus' garment illuminated, but in the actual ending, Jesus' garment was stripped off.
In the preferred ending, Jesus was glorified, but in the actual ending, Jesus was shamed.
In the preferred ending, God confessed Jesus, "This is my Son, the Beloved," but in the actual ending, God abandon Jesus.
Would it be nice that the world ended in the preferred version of the ending? Jesus revealed his identity on a high mountain, God glorified him, people honored him, and the world goes on to live happily ever after.
Peter was overjoyed by the vision. He thought it was the perfect way to end this sin-sick world and start a new world with these three great rulers. He suggested that they build three palaces on this mountain—one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
Since, right before this passage, Peter had already confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, so maybe he was thinking Jesus' palace would be the main palace at the center, and Moses and Elijah would be on each side of Jesus.
Unfortunately, the world couldn't end that way because the world has chosen a different ending. Why and how? Let me explain. Let's look at verse 9:
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, "Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." (Mathew 17:9).
Jesus revealed the alternative ending is at play. He must suffer death, and he will be raised from the dead. Only after that, you can tell people about this vision. Jesus is indicating that the vision they saw is the vision of the Second Coming. So it's not the alternative ending, but the ending of the sequel.
By now, Jesus has revealed to the disciples about his imminent suffering, but it was hard for the disciples to swallow. It didn't make sense for the Messiah to suffer a humiliating death.
So, they tried to argue with Jesus in verse 10 with a question,
And the disciples asked him, "Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" (Mat 17:10).
They were right, according to the prophesy, God would send Elijah to restore the world before the Messiah comes. What they meant is that Elijah would have taken care of this disgraced world and set the hearts of the people right, so that when the Messiah comes it would have been a perfect world for the Messiah to reign forever.
Now, this is Jesus answer:
He replied, "Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist. (Mat 17:11-13).
What is Jesus revealing here? This world is corrupt beyond repair—it's in total depravity. Elijah (a.k.a) John the Baptist tried to restore it, but what did they do with John? They beheaded him.
Jesus said since they treated John that way, he would be treated the same way. The worse is about to come.
The death of John the Baptist has determined the alternative ending of Jesus' life on earth. What you see on the mountain will become the vision of the Second Coming. It's now reserved for the ending of the sequel. So, the disciples could only tell people about this vision after the resurrection.
For now, this world is too disgraced to deserve the second ending. It needs a total redemption. It needs the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. It needs to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. John Calvin calls it the irresistible grace.
Peter's dream to build the three temples was exploded. God has an instruction to him. It would be the same instruction to all of us:
"This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5b).
The instruction is "Listen to him." I think this instruction leads perfectly to the Lenten season.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. Lent is a season to listen.
Sometimes, we get busy doing instead of listening. God gave us a mouth and two ears, meaning we are supposed to speak less and listen more. Like Peter, we want to do great things for God, but what God wants us to do is just listening.
Spiritual listening is a skill we all need. It doesn't mean we don't act, but it means we must listen before we act, especially at times like this where there is a great deal of noises around us.
One of the reasons we don't listen to God is that we are afraid of hearing God's voice. Verse 6 says,
"When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear." (Mat 17:6).
Our sinful nature makes us afraid of God's voice. We think if God were to speak to us, it would be a serious scold or a frightening judgment. Are you afraid of listening to God?
God is telling us that the voice of Jesus represents him. Verse 7 shows us how Jesus speaks:
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Get up and do not be afraid." (Mat 17:7).
Several times in the Bible, Jesus said, "Do not be afraid", "Peace be with you,” "Come to me. I am gentle and humble in heart." The voice of Christ is non-threatening. There's nothing to fear.
Over the years, you have heard me talking about fasting, especially during the Lenten season. The main purpose of fasting is to heighten your ability to listen to God. It's proven historically, and even by many religions. In Christianity, it's a lost discipline.
Most people only think, fasting is only good for their body and health, but spiritual fasting is to finetune your connection with Christ. It unclogs your spiritual ears so that you can listen to him.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent. It's the first day of fasting. Lent lasts for forty days. Sundays are not counted. So, the discipline of fasting is that you fast for six days, and rest for the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter.
If you don't know how to fast, or have never fast, start slowly and learn carefully. You can use this opportunity to learn it so that you know how to do it in the future.
What's most important is that you must have in mind the purpose of fasting. The purpose is to listen to Jesus because God said, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased; listen to him!" Don't fast ritualistically, it's useless. Jesus was against ritualistic fasting. It's fasting without a heart.
How do you know if you are hearing him? Jesus's voice will never contradict his words in the Bible. So, during Lent, it's better to spend time reading the Bible. I encourage you to read the Four Gospels because they recorded his words, thoughts, and actions. Over time, you will get familiar with his voice through the Bible and you will know how to listen to him.
Generally, his voice will be like this, "Get up and do not be afraid." It's healing, affirming, and empowering.
"Get up and do not be afraid" is a good start for listening to Jesus. At this moment of your life, what do you need to get up from? How have you fallen? You can use the fruit of the spirit to assess.
Have you fallen from love? Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." Don't be afraid to love again. Your wounds from love are healed.
Have you fallen from joy? Many people in this world like to pour cold water at you to extinguish your joy. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." Be joyful again.
Have you fallen from peace? There are so many things around us that try to rob us of our peace. Again, Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." Reconcile your relationships and have peace.
Have you fallen from patience? Patience is a matter of hope. If you have hope you are patient. Have you lost hope? Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." There's resurrection even after the crucifixion. There is hope in Christ.
Have you fallen from kindness? Maybe your kindness was betrayed, and you are reluctant to be kind again. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." You know that he has been betrayed a big time. He knows how you feel.
Have you fallen from generosity? Maybe your generosity was abused, and you are afraid of contributing to a wrong cause again. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." Jesus was generous even on the cross, forgiving his accusers.
Have you fallen from faithfulness? Maybe you have broken some promises and you think you are a lost cause. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid." You can start over with a clean slate by asking him for his forgiveness.
Have you fallen from gentleness? Maybe you have made a rude remark and regret it. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid."
Have you fallen from self-control? Maybe you have indulged yourself with unhealthy food or habits. Jesus said, "Get up and do not be afraid."
Transfiguration is a vision of hope. It's a preview of heaven. It's the alternative ending of Jesus' mission. All's well that ends well. So, whatever you are struggling with, listen to Jesus, "Get up and do not be afraid." If you listen to Christ, your life can become a preview of heaven.
May God bless you all. Amen!
Trinity members will worship with First Pres 10:00 a.m. Service on March 8th & 15th, while Pastor Sam is away on the mission trip to Myanmar.
ASH WEDNESDAY ~ February 26th
IIn Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter (Sundays are not included in the count).
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers.
Not all Christian churches observe Ash Wednesday or Lent. They are mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, and also by Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox churches observe Lent or Great Lent, during the 6 weeks or 40 days preceding Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during the Holy Week of Orthodox Easter. Lent for Eastern Orthodox churches begins on Monday (called Clean Monday) and Ash Wednesday is not observed.
The Bible does not mention Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Lenten Supper Series Journeys of Faith
Join Us at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Church Dining Room for a simple supper followed by a brief worship service. During worship, a member of the First Pres or Trinity Presbyterian faith community will share a portion of his or her faith journey. The evening will conclude promptly at 7:00 p.m. MaryEllen Castaldo will provide a Lenten children’s activity during worship.
Sign up each Sunday or call the First Pres’ office (201.652.2504) by 1:00 p.m. on Monday to let us
Date Speaker Preparing the Meal
3/4 Joanne Bonwick, First Pres Growth Committee
First Pres Deacon
3/11 Al Schagen, First Pres Board of Deacons
former FPC Clerk of Session
3/18 Robin Brickman, Trinity Presbyterian
VP of Consistory, Wyckoff Reformed Church
3/25 Karen Daeschler, First Pres CE Committee
Elder, Trinity PC
4/1 Elise Bates Russell, First Pres Session
Executive Director, Johnsonburg Camp and Retreat Center
Come and receive food for body and soul.
One more thing: Bring a friend!
St. Patrick’s Day ~ March 17th
Little is known of Patrick's early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.
In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to Christianize the Irish from their native polytheism. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish church.
Originally, the color associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over the years the color green and its association with Saint Patrick's Day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century. In the 1798 rebellion, to make a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March in hopes of catching public attention. The phrase "the wearing of the green", meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing, derives from a song of the same name.
MARKS OF ABUNDANT LIFE
We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Hebrews 12:1b (NCV)
Airline baggage fees have made travelers more thoughtful about what to pack. As I lay out clothing, shoes, electronics, and personal care items. I typically realize they won’t all fit in my carry-on bag. My priorities must be rearranged, and some items left behind. I decided how each piece will serve on my journey and realize that I can actually enjoy my travels with much less.
Ash Wednesday reminds Christ-followers that discernment is essential for the spiritual journey too. We are invited to ask: Is it essential? Can I afford to carry that? Will it serve me?
Be a thoughtful Lenten traveler. Carry only what is required to love God and neighbor – and let go of all of the rest.
God, help me be a discerning traveler on the way called faith. Amen.
John Odom, Louisville, Kentucky
These Days – Daily Devotionals for Living by Faith
February 26, 2020
KRITZLER’S KORNER WORDS TO LIVE BY:
* A man of stature doesn’t need status.
* A handful of common sense is worth a bushel of learning.
* The world is full of beauty when the heart is full of love.
* People who give thanks for little, will always find that they have enough.
* A mistake is evidence that someone tried to do something.
* Digging a hole is the only job where you can start at the top.
* Leave everything a little better than you found it.
* Better than counting your years, is making your years count.
* A book shut tight is but a block of paper.
* You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails.
March is Women’s History Month
The Trinity Women’s Association will meet on Tuesday, March 3rd at 10:00 am at the home of Ann Schlamp, 320 South Drive, Paramus.
Please join us, we will continue Study of the Ten Commandments. Please bring your lunch, our hostesses will provide dessert and beverages. All women are encouraged to join us for study and fellowship. For more information, please call Ann Schlamp at (201) 265-7187.
DELLRIDGE NURSING HOME
Our worship service at Dellridge will take place on Sunday, March 15 at 2:00 pm. We are experiencing 15-20 very appreciative worshipers each month. Join us for this half hour service and then pass the peace to each of them. It's worth it.
We continue to donate food and supplies at a very impressive rate. In February we delivered 113 lbs. to The Center for Food Action. That brings our 2020 total up to 283 lbs., which is the most giving for this two month period since 2015. Pretty amazing.
The author Adam Hamilton composed this prayer at the end of his chapter on “serving” in his book “The Walk”.
“Lord, you taught us that your glory is revealed when we, the human beings made in your image, extend your love and care for us to others. Make me aware of your “nudges.” And give me a heart that is open to interruption when you need me. Amen”
We certainly have been feeling God's nudges in the realm of food donations. Keep feeling them.
Keep up the wonderful work.
CELEBRATIONS ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY
1 – David Possehl
11 – Marc Dennehy
21 – Ann Schlamp
23 – Peggy O’Hagan
25 – Jeffrey Don
Mar. 01 First Sunday in Lent - 9:00 a.m.
Mar. 01 Chinese Bible Study - 11:00 a.m.
Mar. 03 Women’s Association - 10:00 a.m.
Mar. 04 Lenten Supper - 6:00 p.m.
Mar. 06 World Day of Prayer
Mar. 08 Daylight Saving Time
Mar. 08 International Women’s Day
Mar. 08 Second Sunday in Lent - 10:00 a.m.
Worship Service with First Pres
Mar. 11 Lenten Supper - 6:00 p.m.
Mar. 15 Third Sunday in Lent - 10:00 a.m.
Worship Service with First Pres
Mar. 15 Dellridge Nursing Home - 2:00 p.m.
Mar. 18 Romeo’s - 12:00 p.m.
Mar. 18 Lenten Supper - 6:00 p.m.
Mar. 22 Fourth Sunday in Lent - 9:00 a.m.
Mar. 22 Chinese Bible Study - 11:00 a.m.
Mar. 25 Lenten Supper - 6:00 p.m.
Mar. 29 Fifth Sunday in Lent - 9:00 a.m.
Mar. 29 Chinese Bible Study- 11:00 a.m.
Chinese Bible Study – Meets every Sunday at 11:00 am in the McClure Room upstairs next to Sam’s office.
Morning Bible Study - Meets on the 1st & 3rd Thursday of the month at 10:00 a.m. at the home of the Dennehy’s. We are now studying the Gospel according to Luke. For more information, call Sam at 551-333-1133.
Prayer Group - Please ask Sam about upcoming prayer groups. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. James 5:16
Just Breathe - Yoga with Nancie - Chair Yoga & Mat Yoga meets in the Minnema Room. Please come 15 minutes early to the first class to register. Please Call Nancie for additional information at 914-393-0244 or 1396.
Women’s Association - Meets monthly (except in January) on the 1st Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and a different location each time. For more information, please call Ann Schlamp at (201) 265-7187.
The Trinity Women’s Association will meet on Tuesday, March 3rd at 10:00 a.m. at the home of Ann Schlamp, 320 South Drive, Paramus. Please join us, we will continue Study of the Ten Commandments. Please bring your lunch, our hostesses will provide dessert and beverages. All women are encouraged to join us for study and fellowship.
R.O.M.E.O.’s (Retired Old Men Eating Out) - Meets at noon at the Applebee’s Restaurant located in the Fashion Center of Paramus on the 3rd Wednesday of the month. *All men are welcome* Will meet on Wednesday, March 18th at 12 p.m.