Sunday Lenten Conversations: Two
Scene from Nashville Civil Rights protests, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
If any of you want to walk My path, you’re going to have to deny yourself.
You’ll have to take up your cross every day and follow Me.
If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything.
If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake,
Then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full.
- Luke 9:23-24, The Voice
Excerpts from Self Denial, Unspoken Sermons II, by George MacDonald
(Questions for Conversation added)
Christ is the way out, and the way in; the way from slavery, conscious or unconscious, into liberty; the way from the unhomeliness of things to the home we desire but do not know; the way from the stormy skirts of the Father's garments to the peace of his bosom.
We must become as little children, and Christ must be born in us; we must learn of him, and the one lesson he has to give is himself: he does first all he wants us to do; he is first all he wants us to be. We must not merely do as he did; we must see things as he saw them, regard them as he regarded them; we must take the will of God as the very life of our being; we must neither try to get our own way, nor trouble ourselves as to what may be thought or said of us.
Questions: What do you think MacDonald means by “the home we desire but do not know”?
Let’s pretend: how might our lives be different if we “see things as he saw them”?
So must we deny all anxieties and fears. When young we must not mind what the world calls failure; as we grow old, we must not be vexed that we cannot remember, must not regret that we cannot do, must not be miserable because we grow weak or ill: we must not mind anything. We have to do with God who can, not with ourselves where we cannot; we have to do with the Will, with the Eternal Life of the Father of our spirits, and not with the being which we could not make, and which is his care. He is our care; we are his; our care is to will his will; his care, to give us all things. This is to deny ourselves.
The heaven of Christ is a loving of all, a forgetting of self, a dwelling of each in all, and all in each. Even in our nurseries, a joyful child is rarely selfish, generally righteous. It is not selfish to be joyful. What power could prevent him who sees the face of God from being joyful?--that bliss is his which lies behind all other bliss, without which no other bliss could ripen or last.
Question: How might practicing denying ourselves bring liberation to our lives?
There is another kind of forsaking that may fall to the lot of some, and which they may find very difficult: the forsaking of such notions of God and his Christ as they were taught in their youth--which they held, nor could help holding, at such time as they began to believe--of which they have begun to doubt the truth, but to cast which away seems like parting with every assurance of safety.
If such a man seem to himself to be giving up even his former assurance of salvation, in yielding such ideas of God as are unworthy of God, he must none the less, if he will be true, if he would enter into life, take up that cross also. He will come to see that he must follow no doctrine, be it true as word of man could state it, but the living Truth, the Master himself.
Questions: What “notions” of God have we learned to let go of in our lives?
What do you think MacDonald means that we “must follow no doctrine, be it true as word of man could state it”?