I like finding clever sayings on church signboards. For example: “Whoever is praying for a white Christmas, please stop, or we’ll soon end up with a white Easter!”
You may know that Minnesota Twins baseball has been a huge part of my life, so it will come as no surprise that the following church-sign message is one of my favorites: Lent is Spring Training; Easter is Opening Day!
Opening Day of baseball season (which, if you asked me, should be a national holiday) is a universal day of celebration in the baseball world. It’s that day when “Hope springs eternal” for every team. It’s a day when fans are so thrilled to have baseball back that we’ll even sit on frozen seats bundled in parkas, long johns, wool socks and scarves in 32-degree temps for 3+ hours! Easter is the day we celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world! It’s a day when folks will stand outside at sunrise in freezing temps playing trumpets, guitars and singing to celebrate the fact that Jesus came back from the dead. A day when “Hope springs eternal” - literally - as Jesus’ resurrection proved He’d won the victory over our greatest enemies: sin, death and Satan.
But Opening Day would never happen without Spring Training, roughly forty days teams use to get in shape for Opening Day. Whoever compared Lent to Spring Training was onto something! Lent is a forty-day time when we prepare for celebrating Jesus’ victory. It’s typically a somber time when we’re reminded of our sinfulness - our tendency to do the opposite of what God’s designed us to do. It makes sense to prepare for Easter by being reminded of our sin. I mean, how can you celebrate a victory over sin unless you first admit that you need someone to save you from it?!
One way we typically “get in shape” during Lent is by repenting - turning away from sin and walking in God’s ways. You may try to get in shape by “giving something up” or by “taking something up.” Whichever you choose, one thing is for sure, you’ll realize just how much sin is like snowstorms: As soon as you shovel out from one, here comes another!
The simple truth is: Just like we need the sun to ultimately do away with the snow, we need The Son to ultimately do away with sin - we can never shovel it away!
Maybe you played "Follow the Leader" when you were growing up. If not, it's a game where all the kids line up behind a "leader" and follow that leader around mimicing what he/she does. Whoever doesn't copy what the leader does is "out" of the game. It can be a fun game, especially when you have a goofy leader!
One of the "simple truths" I've discovered over the years is found in this saying: "As goes the leader, so go the people." In other words, "Follow the Leader" isn't just a kids' game, it's something we tend to do all throughout life. The example a leader sets is something we naturally follow. For example, children will often grow up and follow the example their parents set in many aspects of life - even if they vow not to! (You can probably give some examples from your own life. Like my dad set the example of loving baseball. I would much rather watch baseball than any other sport. Not because it's more exciting, but because it's what my dad did.)
There may not be a more appropriate time than Valentine's week to look at the example Jesus set for us about how to love. This might be one area where following the leader doesn't come naturally. By nature we tend to be quite self-centered, but Jesus' example of love is to "unselfishly seek the best for us" (not for himself).
To make that personal, try to answer this question: "What does it look like to unselfishly seek the best for ____________"? Fill in the blank starting with your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend. Then move on to the other people in your life who need your love: Your kids, parents, siblings, friends, etc...
Keep in mind that Jesus died for us even when we are being "unlovable" or don't return His love. As Christian singer/songwriter Don Francisco said in his song Love is Not a Feeling: "Jesus didn't die for us because it was fun. He hung there for love, because it had to be done."
There's one thing that's as certain as death and taxes: The Vikings won't be winning Super Bowl LVII. It's really tough to win a game you won't be playing in :)
That wasn't such a certainty earlier this season. I was at a pastor's conference, and we were sitting around a table discussing all sorts of non-pastor stuff. The Vikings had gotten off to a good start, so one of the pastors asked, "Could this be the year the Vikings win the Super Bowl?"
Everyone weighed in with their opinion on the subject while I just listened. (I used to be a big fan, but I haven't paid much attention to the Vikings since the days of the infamous "Love Boat.") But when the guy next to me asked, "How about you Dave? What do you think?" Well, I really didn't have to put much thought into it: "Nope. Not gonna happen."
The pastor who asked the question was surprised that I was so absolutely sure about this and had to find out what I was basing my certainty on: "Really?! Why not?"
"Well, everyone knows 'The Vikings will win the Super Bowl when hell freezes over.' And you - of all people - should know: Hell doesn't freeze over!" :)
I tried to save them from the inevitable angst that was to come! But sometimes, you just need to learn the hard way :)
Pastor David Dauk