Lent Day 26 Reflection

Blaise Pascal[1] is famous for once saying, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber. A man who has enough to live on, if he knew how to stay with pleasure at home, would not leave it to go to sea or to besiege a town.”[2] The focus of our Lenten readings this week is on the subject of “peace.” It seems as though peace is what we all long for, yet is most often just beyond our grasp. We want peace in our relationships, peace in our country, peace in the world, but most of all, we want to feel a sense of peace inside.

When we lack the internal peace we long for, we begin to wage war on those around us. I believe, like Pascal, that the lack of peace in our world stems from a lack of peace on the inside. Apart from Christ we are restless, conflicted, troubled souls that cannot sit quietly with ourselves. Yet any admittance to internal turmoil would mean we would have to forfeit some of our social and relational authority, so we begin to find other ways to deal with the internal storms. We quickly blame our problems on something or someone “other” than myself. The harsh reality of human nature is that we tend to project our unrest onto others just to quiet the dull roar going on in our own souls.

How can we find the peace we are all looking for as fellow human beings? How can we find the harmony we so often pray for? The Scripture for today from Isaiah 33 says it comes by submitting to the authority of God, the Creator and Sustainer of peace. Isaiah 33:6 says, “He will be the sure foundation for your times…the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.” The key to living a life of peace is submitting our lives, our emotions, our desires, and our plans to the authority of God alone.

The problem with this statement is we have become really adept at creating God in our own image. We convince ourselves through the manipulation of Scripture and community that God has ordained our plans, rather than submitting our lives to His purposes. Richard Rohr says, “We will all find endless disguises and excuses to avoid letting go of what really needs to die for our own spiritual growth. And it is not other humans (firstborn sons of Egyptians), animals (lambs or goats), or even ‘meat on Friday’ that God wants or needs. It is always our beloved passing self that has to be let go of.”[3]

As I said in my sermon this morning, the scary thing is that we can actually get to a place where we justify in our hearts what God clearly says is wrong. We can get to a place where we justify our gossip because that person deserves it. We can begin to justify our anger because “they intentionally did that to upset me.” We can easily justify our pride because we need to have a positive self-image. We can justify our lust because it’s a normal part of our biology. We can justify our laziness because “Jesus paid it all.” You get the point.

To make God the true foundation of our lives means we must move past our terrible habit of turning Him into a genie that is there to affirm my decisions at genieevery turn. In the story of Exodus, one of Pharaoh’s primary problems was he continually exalted himself above God.[4] This stemmed from his failure to listen to God and the counsel around him, which eventually led to his own demise. Pharaoh had made his goals, his desires, and his thoughts the foundation of life. Paul says it this way in Romans 8:5: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires.” In other words, if you live to make yourself “god” of your universe, you’ll never see beyond yourself and never find the satisfaction, or peace, you are looking for.

On the flip-side, Paul goes on to say, “…the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.[5] If we allow God to govern, or rule, our lives, the result will be life and peace. Perhaps the only way to see Jesus, the Prince of Peace, finally bring peace on earth is to allow Him to first bring peace to our hearts. If that is going to happen, we must submit to His lordship and surrender our desire for control. I will close with a prayer that our Lenten guide calls us to pray today: “Lord, Fill our minds with knowledge. Fill our hearts with wisdom. Fill our agendas with redemption. And fill our city with peace like a river.” Amen.


 

[1] Pascal was a 17th century French philosopher, physicist, mathematician and pure genius.
[2] Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensées, Kindle Locations 857-859
[3] Richard Rohr, Wondrous Encounters, Pg. 134
[4] See Exodus 9:17
[5] Romans 8:6

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