This is my radio devotion for Monday, March 1, on KCNI. Thanks to KCNI for airing weekday devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.
Do you want the world to be a better place? Are you a little skeptical of God or God’s presence in your life or the world?
This week, as the season of Lent takes off, I want to explore some concrete ways to experience God’s transforming presence in our lives and the world.
But first, here’s a brief word about the season of Lent, because not all Christian traditions do much with Lent. Lent is a historic season in which Christians prepare for the celebration of Easter by devoting themselves to practices that help us connect more deeply with God. Different traditions add a lot to Lent, but the main thing is drawing closer to God and growing toward who God created us to be.
In the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5, Jesus teaches a large crowd of people about ways to practically live that will make our lives better, the world better, and help us feel connected to God. In one section, he tells us essentially what our parents might have said in folksy wisdom, “Watch your temper, and go make up.”
Here’s how Jesus says it, ““You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council” (Mt 5:21-22). Then he continues with two “therefore’s” paraphrased to say: Therefore, make up with your brother or sister, and settle matters with your enemies.
Now, it’s not hard to see why Jesus includes these lessons in the sermon. He knows what it’s like to be human, so he knows that we can get stuck in anger and resentment. As the story of Jesus unfolds, we’ll see the anger and resentment of others come to their ultimate end when, out of anger, people put Jesus to death. And still, Jesus invites us into our best lives, and into deeper relationships with others and God, by watching our tempers and making up with others.
I know, and Jesus knew, that these two practices are easier said than done, but what if we took Jesus’ message to heart today, this week, and this season? Could we try it? Is watching your temper, or releasing yourself and others from resentment something that could make your life better today?
For me, I’m going to redouble my efforts to watch my temper. One way I’m going to do this is by taking five slow, deep breaths whenever I feel anger welling up in my spirit. While doing this, I’m going to ask myself, “What about this situation is making me feel angry? Is it something about this person or this situation?” As I breathe, I’ll remember that God is with me, as near to me as my breath through the Holy.
Watching our tempers and making up with others with whom we’re in conflict are easier said than done. And yet, Jesus offers them as everyday practices to help us be our best selves, make the world better, and experience God more fully. Let’s try it together.