It’s been a about a week since I last posted anything… I originally created this blog for the 30 Days of Prayer and Purpose, but now that it’s over, I’ve been wondering what I’ll do next. So, until I figure things out, I’ll probably post some random thoughts, as I have time and as the muse strikes me.
Like today, for instance…
This morning, in doing some sermon prep, I was reminded of the true story– the terrible but true story–that I used last year in my Father’s Day sermon. I think it fits the Season of Lent, also.
— For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Lent is a 40 day season in many churches (such as the Lutheran Church) that gives Christians deliberate time to focus on the terrible reality that was the cross–that awful, wonderful fact that God died for us! Out of reverence for Jesus’ sacrifice, many Christians give up something for Lent. Usually, it’s just something small like no soda for 40 days. No soda may seem trivial but it’s a way to say “thank you, Jesus, for giving up your life for me.” Every time you crave that soda you can be reminded of the cross. Also, in many churches you won’t hear the word hallelujah sung or spoken during Lent. Traditions like these help heighten the joy of Easter. The penitential, sorrowful nature of Lent gives us that much more reason to sing with joy on Easter Sunday when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and the defeat of death. It also makes that first soda after Easter taste especially sweet! (wink, wink!)
Well, anyway… my “random” thought today is based on Romans 5:6-10. Paul writes: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
And here is the story I was referring to:
In 1294 there was not a subject more loyal to King Sancho of Spain than Guzmán el Bueno, Guzmán the Good. In a time when Spain was partitioned into small kingdoms that constantly warred against each other, Guzmán was tasked with defending one of Sancho’s most strategic castles from a rebellious attack by Sancho’s younger brother Juan. I’ve seen this castle in person on a family vacation when I was a teenager. It’s a formidable structure on it’s own, but with Guzmán in charge, it was impenetrable. Despite Juan’s best efforts there was no weakness to exploit. Well, almost no weakness…
In a strange and unfortunate turn of events, Juan wound up with an ace up his sleeve. He managed to kidnap one of Guzmán’s son’s named Pedro. Pedro wasn’t even ten years old at the time.
Now, I’m sure you can guess how this story ends. After all, history has several occasions when young hostages, like Pedro, have been used to put pressure on their parents, and the occasions when the strategy worked are rarely conserved in the history books, because–as we all know–parents will do whatever it takes to save their child. It’s what we expect. Therefore, you’ve probably already guessed that Guzmán surrendered the castle. But if you did, your wrong!
You see, for a man of honor like Guzmán, giving in to Juan was not an option. I’d like to picture Guzmán pacing the battlements, praying to God for guidance, talking for hours with his wife, desperate for some way out of the predicament. Maybe they hoped Juan was bluffing, that ultimately he would stay his hand. But after hours of internal turmoil and torment, history tells us it was with a heavy heart that Guzmán returned to the walls. His enemy and his son were waiting to hear what he had decided.
“Well?” Juan called out. “What is it to be? The castle or your son?”
Guzmán looked down at the smirking Juan, likely wishing him to hell and back. Then Guzmán pulled his dagger and held it aloft. The blade glinted in the sun.
“Here,” he said, tossing his dagger down to Juan.
“Kill him with this, if that is your decision. I prefer to keep my honor and lose my son to keeping my son and living forever with a stain on my honor.”
Tough guy! But what a terrible father!
What an ultimately self-centered thing to do. I wonder what his son thought about it. I wonder at how a father can stand on his ramparts and watch as that nefarious Juan slaughtered his son and would later catapulted his head over the castle walls.
Oh what a different tale the Bible tells of God sacrificing his Son. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The Son of God did not die to save God’s honor. The Son of God did not even die to save honorable people. He did not die to rescue friends. No!
What did St. Paul call us?
powerless… ungodly…sinners… enemies….
But Almighty God, the Father, gave His Son to die for us.
That’s no random thought….
Almighty and ever living God,
You invite us deeper into Your kingdom, Your word, Your church, Your family, Your Lent. May this time be one of outward focus; seeking You in those we often ignore. Help us live a Lent focused on freedom, generosity, and encounter. Just as You have given us what we most desperately needed– salvation from sin and death–give us hearts hungry to serve You and those who need what we have to give.
IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.