Message from the Pastor

Rev. Sundar SamuelS

Dear Members and Friends,

The Lenten journey will begin on March 6, 2019. We walk with Jesus through a wilderness of temptation, sin and confession to the glory of Easter morning. Lent is designed to be a thoughtful time, a reflective time, a prayerful time. Lent invites us to consider what it means to be a person created in the likeness of God. Lent brings us to awareness of our essential uniqueness as God’s child.

St. Luke 4:1-13 takes us to see Jesus in the wilderness, where he was tempted three times by the evil one. In three scenes are played out all that it means to be a human being made in the image of God. In the wilderness, Jesus shows his full humanity; he was genuinely tempted as every human being is. What Jesus does in the wilderness is make choices about what he will say “yes” to and what he will say “no” to during the rest of life on the earth. In this glimpse into the experience of Jesus, you and I have an understanding of what it means to be a child of God.

You and I must make choices and we do many, many times an hour! Our choice is not always easy. The desire to live on automatic pilot with everything laid out in front of us is a strong urge. The desire to have everything our hearts want is compelling. Instead we are confronted with the necessity of making a choice, where we go in one direction rather than another direction, where we must lay something down in order to be able pick something else up. In a few days our General Conference will be making some monumental decisions. Decisions to what role our brothers and sisters of LGBTQ community will be playing in our beloved United Methodist Church. Let us all be in prayer for God guidance upon the gathered delegates from five continents to be led by God’s Spirit to bring God’s love, grace and justice for all individuals irrespective of their backgrounds.

The reality of choice was present in the first moment of creation. God put Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where everything they needed was provided by God’s gracious hand. They had all they needed but could not have all that was there. Life in the garden hinged on trust. The humans must trust God and not try to have everything, which means not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They have to make a choice as to whether to trust God on God’s terms or to live by their own design. We all know how that story turns out!

Then comes Jesus, and like every person, he has to struggle with how he will live, whom he will trust, what he will give his life to. He is tempted in the wilderness the way every life is tempted every day. We must do the same. For all the agony the reality of choice brings to us, there can be no other way. It is in the capacity to choose that we realize we are God’s children. So in the season of Lent we take time to examine our lives and consider the choices we are making. We must choose to trust God instead of our schemes and plans to fill our needs. It isn’t always easy, for the choices before us are often attractive. Our agony is not so much between the good and the bad as it is between the good and the better, and ultimately the best. We can only say yes to somethings by saying no to something else. The best is found through deliberateness, intention, and courage to make good choices. This is our sweet burden of being a human and made in the likeness of God.

Jesus lived a deliberate life. He did not drift and would not be swept up in the tides of trends and styles and momentary pleasure. He shows what his life would be. We should too, because the only life worth living is the life of intention and discipline. How countercultural is that? Through discipline we discover the strength and permission to do what we want to with our lives. Not choosing one thing in order to choose something else that is even better is what a disciplined life does, because it is clear that this is the way to true life.

Verse 13 of our text says that after Jesus had successfully resisted the evil one’s temptations, after he had made his good choices, the devil “departed from him until the next opportunity.”

It is a reminder that the struggle about what to choose goes on. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was still struggling with what he would do. Choice - it is a gift and it is ever with all of us. Let us always look to Jesus and may we find in him our strength to make our best choices which will honor God and serve our neighbor for a life of rich fulfillment.

My prayers are with you during this Lenten season as you make some very important decisions that will affect you, yours and your community in the days to come.

Peace and Grace,

Pastor Sundar