Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:9–15
Mardi Gras was a little over a week ago. I am not a fan. In fact, the very idea of Mardi Gras makes me sad; the basic premise: Lent is coming, Lent is a drag, a “religious thing,” deprivation, so, let’s eat, drink and party, for tomorrow we die — lets indulge in drunken and debauched revelry because tomorrow we are stuck with God in Lent.
Understand, my problem with lent is not a moral one, the sadness which the idea of lent causes me is not primarily about the behavior (on one level I could care less). My sadness flows from the complete and utter misunderstanding of the realities of Jesus and what he came to do that is embodied in Mardi Gras. And it’s not just Mardi Gras, so many people live with this misunderstanding that the good life is in the things that God disapproves of and the “good life” is in the way God wants us to be. As Billy Joel said, “They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait. Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t. I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun.”
This mindset is widespread, almost universal for those who are not Christians, and present in dangerously high numbers among those who are. It is not, however a mindset that is expressed in the Bible and is the farthest thing from anything Jesus ever said a lie from the pit of hell meant to rob you of the real good life that is promised as we align ourselves with God and his story through Jesus, the good life that we are promised to personally find to be “more and better life than we ever imagined (John 10:10), A life without worry (Matt 6), a life of contentment and peace regardless of our circumstances (Philippians 4:12), a life of impact (John 16) a life that heals the broken places (Mark 4) in the world, and the list could go on and on.
Living life as a Christian actually means to recognize that you are loved by God with such a fullness that the reality of his love for us actually gives us a new identity – loved, approved, accepted, before we have done anything good and despite anything we have done bad. His invitation is to soak in this, to live in this, to carry this reality with us — our new name — so that when we are called other names “incomplete,” “failure,” “worthless,” “insecure,” (add whatever name you hear) they ring hollow because we know they are not true. As we live into this true identity, we will be actually prepared to face any temptation, any challenge, any call or mission or service with courage and confidence, instead of fear, knowing that the God who names us is with us in all things— unwavering in his love for us — and leading us into places that we might not chose for ourselves but which actually make us better as we bring light and restoration into the dark and broken places. This is the kind of life that you are invited into, this is the reality of Kingdom – that is huge!
Why does Mardi Gras makes me sad? Because it is so small, and because the philosophy/theology behind it traps us in smallness instead of the bigness God invites us to.
Peace, hope and love