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On February 6-9, 2015, eight young people and three adults went to Epworth-By-The-Sea on St. Simons Island for the 2015 Youth Assembly, also known as the Youth-A-Palooza.  We shared in a great time of study on the topic of “Reflect, Refresh, and Rejoice.”  Dakota, Dalton, and Haley Crofutt, Levi and Sarah Cook, Laython Willis, Carter Nolde, and Tyler Hurlbert attended along with Jessica Hebenstreit, John Glover, and Darrell Vandervort.  The banner from the event will hang in the sanctuary until it is replaced by the banner for 2016.  Ask the young people about the event.  The Youth Assembly is open to all middle and high school aged young people.  Adults are welcome to participate as well.

We are into Lent as we begin March.  As Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days of temptation, we are challenged to wander through these 40 days to examine the temptations in our own lives,

One of the biggest temptations we face in our society is the fabrication of self-sufficiency.  We are to present an image of the hearty American who is capable of pulling himself or herself up by our own bootstraps.  It is not possible to lift ourselves off the ground, or if we attempt this trick we will find a wonderful view of the sky as we topple backwards.

God created us to share our strengths with others and to allow others to provide the strengths that we lack.  That is what living in true community is all about.  We all advance together through cooperation, not just as a church, not just as Christians, but as the Creation of God.  How often do you seek help without feeling as though you are a failure?

The only time we truly fail is when we fail to seek help, support, and/or guidance in our endeavors.

Another temptation before us is the fear of loving others.  As Christians we are challenged to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor also.  It is loving our neighbor that gets tricky.  We permit fear to help us choose our neighbors.  There are scary people in the world who do terrible things to others.  I do not attempt to gloss over this fact.  But Christianity only succeeded when it lovingly kept on serving and loving all people even when it cost Christians their lives.  Unlike what we see in modern martyrs, early Christian martyrs did not take the lives of others to show their devotion to God.  Rather they risked their lives to love their enemies and to boldly pray for those who sought to do them harm.  Last month, we heard the story of Coptic Christians being executed in Libya.  These Christians are seen as true martyrs because they refused to deny their faith even if it meant their death.  Were they afraid, undoubtedly?  Did the fear win?  I don’t think so.

The only way our faith really overcame opposition was by the willingness to respond to violence with love and caring behavior.  Even the early critics of our faith were amazed at the expression of love early Christians showed others.  What might we accomplish if we behaved in the same way today?

The last temptation I want to lift up in this article is the temptation of busyness.  We live in a society that sees rest as wasting time.  We need to “efficiently” use our time.  We have to be “productive” with our time.  Neither of these highlighted words are bad in and of themselves, however, they can be carried to ridiculous extremes.  We all need time to rest and reflect, time to be renewed and refreshed.  God insists that we take Sabbath seriously; a full day of rejoicing in not worrying about productivity and efficiency.  Compared to the rest of the world, we accept overwhelming demands on our time to the sacrifice of family time, re-creation time, or relaxation time.  When was the last time you returned from vacation and wished for some extra time to recover from vacation?

Love yourself so that you can love your neighbor and God.  Take the necessary time to truly worship and to play so that when you work it will be productive and efficient but not at the expense of yourself and others.  If you cannot recall the reasons you do what you do, then you may have lost the sense of purpose, the sense of vocation.  A job is more than a way to support yourself and your family.  You need to rediscover how it serves others, how it benefits others, how you add meaning to your neighbors in this task.  You also need to be able to let it go.  Your job is not who you are; it is only something you do.  You are the image of God, a brother or sister of Jesus, a gift to your community from God.  Rediscover rest and purpose this Lent.

By the end of the month we will be preparing for the greatest gift of love ever offered.  Prepare yourself and be blessed.

Shalom, Darrell