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A few weeks ago, our son Foster was under the weather.  Nothing terrible or wildly concerning.  Just an unusually high temp and small cough.  We did all the tests and everything came back negative.  Most days he would act totally fine, but then get worn down and still have a fever.  Fortunately it was a holiday weekend, so he didn’t miss as much school, but he had still been home, sick for almost a full week.  Rotating fever reducers, giving him electrolyte filled drinks with soups and orange juice.  Every time we’d take his temp, it was constantly bouncing around in the 100’s.  As a parent, you start to wonder…am I doing something wrong?

Will our life ever get back to a normal rhythm?

Will we be making soups and orange juice for this kid forever?

He had moments a week or so in, when he seemed to mostly be bouncing back.  So in my hurrying to get us back to normal I foolishly and excitedly decided I should take his temp to confirm he was on the road to recovery.  Still in the 100’s.  Bizarre.  Because he felt cool…but I guess his body is still fighting something.

After dinner, when he ate up his food, and was back to being goofy and ridiculous, I decided to take it again.

Still in the 100’s.

At this point, we were so confused.

So, Sarah says, “lets check it with another thermometer.”

Sure enough.

His temperature was in the low 98’s.

Then of course we all had to take all of our temps with all the thermometers we had, so we are passing around these thermometers from mouth to mouth…if he still had anything, we all had it now…

Same thing.  One would be reading in the 100’s and the other would be reading 3 degrees cooler.

So how do we know whats right?

We find a new way to measure.

We find a new thermometer.

We didn’t trust any of those devices, so I headed out to the store, bought one of those fancy ones that you touch on your head, come home and we all proceeded to continue to test each others temperatures.

We ended up continuing to show different temps wildly all over the place with 3 different thermometers, so again, the next day Sarah bought another one…

I’m not sure if we were all sick, but we all were testing with similar results that were inconsistent depending on which thermometer we were using.

This is our challenge today.

We are basing our life, how we are doing, off of different thermometers.  We have a range of gauges to assess and it changes for each of us.

When we feel like we are doing well financially, we look to others who appear to have more and suddenly we feel like a failure.

When we are wondering if our marriage is struggling, we look to others who are in a disastrous marriage and think, maybe we’re good.

We feel like an okay parent, then we measure against “parent of the year” and feel discouraged.

We start to sense some of our habits are becoming destructive, so we look to others who are worse, and instantly we feel great about our habits.

You can always make yourself feel better or worse, justified or vilified, a success or failure, just by comparing yourself to different people.

If you notice, we all do this, from leaders, to organizations, to politicians, sports teams, and kids in the classroom.  We assess our success or responsibility based on others.  We use the sliding scale of comparison to fit whatever narrative we desire often without owning up to our part.

So how do we live differently?

We find a new way to measure.

We find a new thermometer.

We are about to start the season of Lent.

Lent is simply the time leading up to Easter morning.  It starts with Ash Wednesday, a day where people ask why you have something on your forehead and then we remember for 40 days, not including Sundays, the journey Jesus took to the cross.  It is a time of reflection, a time of refinement, a time when people often give up something, fast from food or take on a new rhythm or habit.  The point is that every time you think about that thing you gave up, every time you practice that new rhythm or habit, you remember Jesus.  Lent doesn’t save you, fasting doesn’t save you, but the one we direct our attention to during Lent does and did.

See he is the way we live differently.

He lived a perfect life.  A life of love and sacrifice.

He lived a life where the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.

He showed what the heart of God looks like lived out.

When we turn to him, trust in him, abide in him, let him change us, and embody his ways, we will find the new way to measure ourself.

In building projects in the ancient near east, a way to find a straight line, a way to know things were properly lined up, they would use a plumb line.  Essentially it was a rope with something heavy at the bottom forcing a straight line.  It would take the force of gravity with something weighty being lowered from above and that line would hang perfectly straight.

This plumb line was used to know what was right and what needed correction.

It’s pretty obvious Jesus was and is the way we know when things are lined up correctly, when things are proper.  He is a force of gravity from heaven and his significant life that lowered himself into creation helps us to gauge and know what was right and what needs correction.

In the writings of the prophet Amos, he shares that God said,

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel…”

Amos is writing that God will give us the perfect example, the perfect way to measure.

That perfect plumb line set in the midst of us is Jesus.  He can show us the way to live, he can show us what matters, he is our perfect gauge and measuring stick, he is the one that helps us know what is right and what needs correction.

Good news…Jesus both speaks the truth and gives us massive amounts of grace.  

Lent is a time where we get to encounter powerful truths and massive grace, culminating in the overwhelming good news of God.

This is the new way to see things.  In the light of Jesus.

Also, if anyone is interested in some slightly used pretty inaccurate thermometers, I may have some for sale.

I hope you will join us during Lent.  Below are a few quick overview of things coming in the next two months.

-This Sunday, February 4th we will share in communion at 9am.  Join us for a brief communion service at 9am and then for a time of coffee and community between the two services.  We’ll gather for worship like normal at 10am.  Right now rain is on the forecast, so plan to be cozy inside since likely there won’t be a lot of people opting to sit outside.

-Sunday, February 11th we will have worship like normal and then afterwards we will have an all church coffee and pastries gathering.  Some churches do pancake dinners, or shrove gatherings, or fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras leading up to Ash Wednesday and Lent…we do coffee and pastries.

-Wednesday, February 14th we will have our Ash Wednesday service at 6pm at The Chapel.  It will be a service, less than an hour, to come and reflect as we begin this journey with Jesus in the season of Lent.  We will also conclude with the receiving of ashes, if you so choose, on your hand or on your forehead.

-We will also have our Lent Guide available, a devotional reading that will take you from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.  It is a beautiful guide we are excited to share.  We’ll have digital copies if you would prefer that.

During Holy Week we’ll have several services I hope you can join us for.

Palm Sunday Service, on Sunday, March 24th at 10am.

Maundy Thursday Communion Service, on Thursday, March 28th at 6pm.

Good Friday Service, on Friday, March 29th at 6pm.

Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Seaside on Sunday, March 31st at 6am.

Easter Services at 8:30am and 10am on Sunday, March 31st at The Chapel.

Let me know if you have any questions or need anything…or want to check these thermometers.  It really is quite a deal.

See you Sunday.