“What are we doing to grow in faith?”

As I sit here at my desk on this cold, blustery, snowy February morning, I look out the office window and see the majesty and beauty of God’s creation.  Few vehicles pass on the highway here in front – a welcome respite from the usual blasts of the jake brakes of the log trucks rolling by. The stillness and quiet may be maddening to some.  But to me, it’s a time to welcome God’s Spirit to minister to my spirit in the quiet of the morning. Of course, I don’t have to head out to work this morning in this weather.  Those who do might see the quietness of this snowy morning from a different perspective.  Those who must be out in this bluster, electrical linemen for instance, may see it as maddening.  It’s all in your perspective.

But here comes March – known as a time of Madness, “March Madness,” at least in college basketball. Usually there are 68 teams from all over the country vying for four spots in the Final Four tournament. This tournament is known for its excitement and highly competitive action. During the month, there are upsets between teams who have automatically qualified, because they won their conference, and teams that were chosen to an at-large spot in the tournament. All these teams are pulling out all the stops to reach the goal of being crowned the national basketball champion for 2021. This is typically a season filled with disappointment, thrills, and always unexpected surprises. Such things might also reflect God’s take on the Christian walk from a heavenly point of view. Those we don’t see applauded or receiving public acclaim can often be the very ones whose faith provides an example for us to emulate. Sometimes the quiet ones, who come through the battle battered and bruised, are the best examples of what it means to be a Christian. We cannot rely on our own eyesight to determine the one who best epitomizes what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

Yet I think that we all have a role to play in this world. In fact, there is no competition, no scrambling for the top spot, but instead God relies on each of us playing our part to the best of our ability. Just as the teams that rise to the top in March Madness rely on each of their players to effectively execute the role he has on the team in order to win, so God entrusts us with gifts to employ in the building of His kingdom.

In some ways, March Madness is also an appropriate name for the season of Lent, the time from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a time when we do things that the world might consider crazy in order to grow in our faith. We give up luxuries that bring us pleasure in order to remember that it is God who gives us all we have. We spend more time in conversation with God to guide us in the way we should go. We are more considerate of those who are more needy than we. March is a time when we reevaluate not only our goals for which we strive but when we also reevaluate our methods for approaching and achieving those goals. We may even change our goals midstream, because we realize the goals we have made are self-honoring rather than God-honoring. We look for counsel from our fellow companions (some would call them our fellow competitors), from scripture, and from the Spirit who was given to us by Jesus who died for us, not because we were good, but because we needed a savior.

You may think this is far-fetched thinking, but remember that the Jew’s patriarch, Jacob, father of the twelve sons who later became the twelve tribes, was given a new name because he wrestled with God. Jacob, renamed Israel, was not one who gave up, nor did he give in to the angel or Lord with whom he was wrestling. In fact, he ended up with a permanent limp after this wrestling match and also ended up with the name which would become the name of the nation which would bless all the earth.

So, during the month of March, we ask ourselves, “What are we doing to grow in faith?” Are we spending time reading the scriptures, or maybe we have our own formal or informal Bible study? Whatever we are doing, now is the time to put our madness into action. Let us look forward to Eastertide when we will celebrate Palm Sunday on March 28th and Easter on April 4th, the greatest holiday ever. And may we truly be mad about God just as God is mad about us. To Him be the glory and honor, amen.